A Travellerspoint blog

Get Her to the Greek: Day Five

It’s All Greek to Me

We couldn’t believe our 5 days on Zakynthos were already over. It was up at 6:00 a.m. to catch a flight to the next island: Kefalonia.

We had a moment of panic when we reached the small airport, checked our bags, and then realized the wine we had bought the day before was in Matt’s backpack.

I thought seriously about running into the bathroom and seeing how much of it I could drink out of the bottle before we boarded, but, in the end, we simply left it with the rental car guy as a “thank you” for upgrading us from our economy car to the Jeep (that we nearly destroyed). We also hoped he’d remember our generous gift if he happened to notice any odd ….scratches…that might not have been there before…..

The flight was short and sweet. We found ourselves standing at the single, tiny bag belt at the Kefalonia airport at 9:00 a.m.

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Kefalonia (or Cephalonia…it was maddening how everything seemed to have two names…Zakynthos or Zante? Daphne or Dafni? Kefalonia or Cephalonia?) is the biggest of the Ionian islands. The island is dominated by tall mountains, dramatic cliffs, picturesque beaches, and quaint waterfront towns. It is a more natural beauty, filled with winding roads that snake through olive groves and wild cypress, revealing hidden coves around every turn. Even the beach on the road to the airport was beautiful.

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Kefalonia retains more rural charm than the other islands. It hasn’t seen some of the vast development that Zakynthos and Corfu have seen, but is instead filled with flowing vineyards, quiet villages, and gorgeous beaches.

We jumped in our little Fiat Panda and headed toward our villa, thankful that the villa manager had agreed to a very early check in.

Villa Quarda was part of Vardiola Beach Villas, a set of private houses situated right on the water in Svoronata, about 20 minutes south of the airport, on the southwest portion of the island. With four bedrooms, it was far bigger than we needed, but that infinity pool had called my name. The villa was outstanding, and the hospitality of the staff was exceptional.

We were welcomed inside, given a tour, and left with a food basked and wine.

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We arrived so early that, even after taking time to unpack, we had time to hit a beach before lunch. We decided to try to find Paliolinos, which was fairly close to the villa. The first few miles of the drive were fine. We passed goats and stone houses and numerous olive groves. It was when the road started to become narrower and narrower and the pavement started to get rougher and rougher that we got a little uneasy.

When we found ourselves on a single lane dirt road, we immediately thought back to That Day We Almost Died on a Beautiful Greek Island because of the Great Driving Disaster on Goat Hill. We shouted a collective “Hell no!” and immediately turned around.

We headed to nearby Avithos Beach instead, where we found a charming seaside tavern, a beach bar, and ample loungers.

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We feasted on bread, olives, hard cheese soaked in olive oil, tzatziki (a garlicky cucumber-yogurt dip), and amazing salad and beef stifado (Chunks of tender beef cooked with whole pearl onions in a rich tomato sauce that is served with a good supply of crusty bread to mop up the sauce).

In case you were wondering, yes, we were getting fat.

We enjoyed post-lunch cocktails at Cavo and beach lounging for the rest of the afternoon. Avithos was a beautiful beach with towering cliffs behind it and warm golden sand with shallow water that barely got above knee high no matter how far out you went.

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We returned to the villa and cleaned up for dinner. With a little time to kill, we headed to Gentelini Winery, in hopes of replacing the wine that we had to hand over to the Budget guy for fear of being arrested as we went through airport security.

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The winery was charming and served us a sampling of cheese and tomatoes with soft bread and olive oil to accompany our tasting.

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I had planned for us to eat dinner at a highly recommended restaurant near the villa called Espirides. We had driven by it earlier in the day and it looked lovely. What I didn’t expect was to be told “No reservation, no eat.” They were completely booked for the entire night.

This led to a frantic search in the dark for somewhere to eat. As an uber planner….THIS NEVER HAPPENS TO ME. It was late, we were unfamiliar with the area (having just arrived), we were hungry, and it was dark. The area we were staying in wasn’t heavily populated with restaurants and “town” was more like a market and a café.

We saw a brightly lit restaurant and pulled into the parking lot.

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And that is how we ended up eating at the Denny’s of Greece, folks.

We couldn’t have picked a more boring, basic, overly typical, tourist trap restaurant. This was not an authentic experience.

Acropolis Restaurant was Shoney’s with Greek columns and feta cheese.

Cheesy Greek music (basically the CD that would be called “Cheesy Greek Music” if you ordered it on Amazon) poured through the restaurant. We ate a very blah dinner with the world’s meanest cat sitting at our feet.

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Posted by vicki_h 10:36 Archived in Greece Tagged greece corfu zante kefalonia greek_islands ionian_islands zykanthos shipwreck_beach navagio_beach cephalonia Comments (0)

Get Her to the Greek: Day Four

Let’s Hear it For Grampa’s Wine

Our vacation had finally stopped turning on us, and we woke up feeling refreshed. Our plan for the day was to visit the beautiful Cliffs of Keri and Grampsas Winery.

But first….BREAKFAST.

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After breakfast, we drove to the southwest portion of the island to find the famed Cliffs of Keri. You see some interesting things driving around the rural streets of a Greek island. This guy gets my vote for "best hitchhiker."

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We didn’t plan it, as we didn’t even know what the hours were (actually, I didn't even know there were "hours"), but we were the first to arrive as they opened the café overlooking the cliffs. I suppose the vacation fairies had decided to take pity on us, since we’d endured some, ahem, “difficulties” to that point.

Being first meant we got the ABSOLUTE BEST TABLE with THE ABSOLUTE BEST VIEW.

Winning!

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Much to the chagrin of the flood of professional bloggers that herded in after us. Seriously…they had EQUIPMENT with them. These 20-something year old girls would pull up, way overdressed for the setting, pull all kinds of selfie contraptions out of their trunk that they piled onto some absurdly patient boyfriend/husband/friend and then would spend the next 20 minutes working to get the ideal shot with their phones, only to run off as soon as they had it. Were they even able to see the place before them?

We took the time to take a few photos (with an actual CAMERA), but spent the next hour simply sitting in the sunshine, sipping wine, eating olives, and staring at the view. We watched as countless young couples showed up, spent the entire time there consumed with their phones and all of the selfies they could take, and as soon as they snapped the perfect shot, they were off to the next view, the next Instagram moment, the next selfie. They never even looked at the way the water turned from turquoise to cobalt to indigo as it moved farther from the shore, or the way the sun hit the waves, sending showers of sparkles rippling through the tide.

They didn't pause long enough to feel the warm sun on their skin or taste the crisp chilled rose.

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It made me a little sad for them, these “dash and go” tourists. They were so consumed with showing someone else what a good time they were having that they failed to actually have a good time. I’m all for snapping a few great photos, but do it, be done with it, and then savor the moment. Be in the place. As I sipped my chilled rose and munched on a tangy olive, I heard the sound of the waves below. I nodded at the old man with the kind eyes who was reading a tattered book under the grape arbor. I watched the woman who was sitting under the portico sewing a flag as her needle went in an out with lightning speed. I held Matt’s warm hand and was simply happy to be in that place. I took the time to enjoy the simple beauty of the moment.

And in case you were wondering, NO Matt did not go out on that little finger platform that hung precariously over the end of the world.

We finished our wine and moved on to lunch in the nearby Keri Village. Keri Village was a tiny spot on the road filled with colorful buildings draped with ivy and cute little tavernas with brightly painted tables sitting in the street.

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We settled on Sunset Taverna. Even though it wasn’t sunset, the view was lovely. With the ever present carafe of red wine, we enjoyed stuffed peppers, fresh bread, salad with grilled halloumi cheese, and shrimp wrapped in bacon.

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Anyone have a guess as to what a Piza Toy Boynoy is? I really wanted to know.

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“Where to next?” Matt asked as we savored the last bit of wine.

“I thought we’d stop by Grampsas Winery on the way back to the villa,” I replied.

“Grampa’s Winery? Are you serious? That sounds like something we’d have in Bean Station,” he said.

“GRAMPSAS,” I chuckled.

Located at the foot of a mountain in the village of Lagodopo, Grampsas is a small, family run boutique winery that produces some very good wines. We were greeted by a surprisingly professional 12 year old boy and Fred the cat, who couldn’t be bothered to wake up from his nap to acknowledge guests.

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We were set up with a tasting and some snacks and left to enjoy the quiet courtyard.

Which came with KITTENS. Which was amazing.

Wine + kittens.

Baby animals make everything better. It was like the Cuddle Bus in Knoxville that lets you hold a puppy and drink a beer for $5 or that new baby goat yoga. Even I might do yoga with a baby goat.

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The rest of the day was spent on loungers by the sea not doing much of anything and drinking our newly acquired bottle of “Grampa’s Wine” on our daybed.

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We ventured to Lofos for dinner, a small restaurant not far from the villa that offered a commanding view of the valley below.

We started with sautéed mushrooms and a salad with sundried tomatoes and cheese, followed by a baked spaghetti and the “Lofos Special” pizza, all while discreetly feeding the cat under the table.

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We couldn't believe it was already the end of our stay on Zakinthos. Next up...Kefalonia.

Posted by vicki_h 07:03 Archived in Greece Tagged greece corfu zante kefalonia greek_islands ionian_islands zykanthos shipwreck_beach navagio_beach cephalonia Comments (0)

Get Her to the Greek: Day Three

It Isn’t Easy Being [s]Green[/s] Greek

It was our 3rd day in Greece and, while it had been LOVELY thus far, each day had been slightly fraught with disaster. I guess that’s what happens when you are a do-it-yourself traveler. We lacked the safety of a tour or a trip planner. There was no bus waiting for us each day to tell us where to go.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The previous days had left us a bit exhausted, so we spent an entire, lazy, decadent, luxurious morning at the villa. We started off with breakfast.

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Then we hit the seaside loungers and listened to the waves and did a whole lot of nothing.

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Batteries sufficiently recharged, we headed into Zakynthos Town to see if we could find something to repair the car with. We were hoping against hope that the gazillion scratches that covered the entirety of the Jeep were superficial and could be buffed out.

Zante Town is the capital of the island and definitely the commercial center. Much of the island was destroyed in a massive earthquake in 1953, and Zante Town was not spared. However, it had been rebuilt with lovely Venetian style houses, buildings, and shops. Visiting Zante Town hadn’t been on our “list,” but I’m glad the Great Driving Disaster on Goat Hill had happened, otherwise we’d have never seen it.

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Narrow streets were lined with cafes where beautiful women sat sipping frappes as scooters whizzed and darted between the traffic. Fresh fruit stands sat in the dappled sunlight and bougainvillea spilled out from random entry ways.

Finding an auto parts store proved more difficult than we expected. There was no Auto Zone. We couldn’t even read most signs. We asked and didn’t get much help.

FINALLY, we were told where there was an auto parts store a short drive away. We drove. We entered. The sole individual in the small store was an elderly man propped on a stool that didn’t speak a word of English. Matt gestured. He drew pictures. He grunted. Nothing.

Finally, Matt brought him out to the Jeep and showed him the sides.

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“Ah!” the little man laughed and went back inside the store. He produced some rubbing compounds, but didn’t have any buffing cloths or rags. He sent us to the cleaning store.

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Because we couldn’t read the signs, we picked the store that had buckets in the window. We figured that was a good bet.

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Success!!

Then we saw a car wash and thought, “It can’t hurt, right?” We paid our $6 and “went in the tunnel” as we were instructed.

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The Jeep already looked 50% better just from the wash. We were hopeful.

Since we had driven this far, we ventured to the “NO GO ZONE” known as the southeast end of the island, aka Party Central. It was indeed over commercialized, and the difference between it and the quiet north end of the island was striking. Clubs besieged the street offering cocktails, dreams and cheap, low-quality booze. Swarms of excitable young people stumbled, scuffled, and fumbled their way from one bar to another as girls in hot pink thong bikinis trekked down the sidewalk with floats shaped like unicorns bouncing in their arms.

Thankfully, I knew of a lovely, out of the way spot at Dafni Beach. Despite being wedged unceremoniously between the hundreds of sunbeds jammed on Banana Beach and the champagne spray parties on the quarter mile stretch of neon beach clubs in Laganas, Dafni is a part of the Zakynthos Marine Park and is nesting ground for loggerhead turtles. It maintains a quite simplicity, even in the midst of the MTV Spring Break vibe of southeast Zante.

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The drive down to Dafni was stupid beautiful.

It is also home to Porto Mela, a super chill open-air beachfront restaurant that boasts the best bread on the island.

The restaurant was super laid back. Bohemian surfer types sat at mismatched tables underneath shady trees having deep conversations as they sipped a frosty Mythos and smoked. I could already smell the bread from the wood fired bread ovens.

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The bread was to die for. It was all chewy dense and moist inside and crispy outside, served with a bowl of freshly crushed tomatoes and garlic.

We had a simple salad of greens with lemon, olive oil, and sea salt, grilled chicken souvlaki, moussaka, and feta with olive oil, tomatoes, and peppers.

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After lunch, we decided to hit the posh beach club at Porto Azzuro. When in Rome and all that, right?

While beautiful, it was not our scene. There were far too many people. Although, their drinks were outstanding. We sipped caipirinhas and watched with amusement as about 20 bikini clad girls jockeyed for position on the beach by the rocks trying to get their perfect selfie.

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We finished our afternoon buffing the Jeep, because that is what everyone wants to do on the third day of their Greek Island vacation.

Can you believe every scratch came out??? Woo Hoo!

It was celebration time.

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We had dinner reservations near Zante Town and I had seen an odd little bar nearby that looked like it would either be awful or amazing. Of course I made Matt try it out.

It turned out to be amazing.

Portofino Bar sat on the water’s edge and was basically a mish mash of odd furniture, bottles, and strange nick knacks, but it somehow worked beautifully and created an eclectic, relaxing space with a super Bohemian vibe. When they brought me a handwritten menu on thick brown paper, I knew it was my kind of place.

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After enjoying a couple of drinks in the fading light, we headed to Bassia for dinner. Touted as one of Zakynthos’ best, it lived up to the hype.

Set on the water, surrounded by beautiful trees and lights, it was lovely. It was also windy. And chilly.

Before I was barely seated, the waiter had brought me a lap blanket and a glass of wine.

We shared steamed mussels in garlic and white wine; the Bassia salad with local rye rusks covered with crushed tomatoes and large chunks of feta; the linguine with sundried tomatoes and feta; and grilled shrimp.

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We didn’t get lost today, no one forced us onto a bouncing boat, and we fixed the Jeep.

We were settling in and starting to do Greece right.

Posted by vicki_h 05:55 Archived in Greece Tagged greece corfu zante kefalonia greek_islands ionian_islands zykanthos shipwreck_beach navagio_beach cephalonia Comments (2)

Get Her to the Greek: Day Two

That Day We Nearly Died on a Beautiful Greek Island

The day started innocently enough. We enjoyed a lovely breakfast on our balcony, listening to the surf crashing against the rocks below.

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Our plan was to drive to Porto Limnionas, a unique swimming area carved into the rock on the other side of the island. Zykanthos is a fairly large island (156 square miles) and the interior is wild and untamed, filled with mountains and rocky expanses.

Armed with nothing more than Google Maps on our iPhones, we set off, blindly trusting.

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I think visual aids are in order to fully explain what happened to us that day.

I present Exhibit 1: an innocent looking Google map that we are all familiar with, offering multiple routes and highlighting the shortest route, which is obviously the right choice. I mean, obviously.

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What I didn’t know was that the shortest route (indicated below in red) included a HUGE section of road that doesn’t appear in Google Street View.

Wanna’ know why? BECAUSE IT’S NOT A FLIPPING ROAD. It's a goat path.

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But we didn’t know that yet.

We started merrily on our way, marveling at the pretty sights.

La te da. Here we go.

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We had a second chance to PAY ATTENTION when we reached this intersection and the route turned us toward a very rangy road. Very. Rangy.

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Instead of noticing the increasing deterioration of our “road,” we were too busy “ooooing” and “aaaaahhhing” over the beautiful olive groves that lined the “road.” It was truly beautiful.

Until it wasn’t.

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The semi-paved road gave way to dirt. The dirt gave way to loose soil and rock. It got narrower and narrower.

We made our final, and fatal, mistake when the map told us to make a sharp left turn, over a giant gravel pile, up a steep hill, with drop offs on either side. That was our last chance to turn around.

We didn’t take it.

We powered on.

And soon found ourselves on a footpath, lined sharply with dense shrubbery and thorns, too narrow to drive through without hearing the continual screeeeeeeech of the branches tearing down the sides of our vehicle (it was a very expensive sound in case you were wondering). To add to our delight, it was steep, with sheer drop offs on one side and a sheer dirt face on the other, going up endless switchback turns.

We were going to die.

It was very quiet in the car.

Well, except for the sound of the shrubbery eating all of the paint off of our rental vehicle. This shrubbery:

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We couldn’t turn around.

We couldn’t back up.

All we could do was continue to inch forward and hope the path stayed wide enough to pass and didn’t eventually peter out into nothing.

For the final exhibit I show you THIS:

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Our path is in red dots. See that bit in the middle? That’s where there wasn’t even a road.

At this point, we simply stopped the car. We didn’t know what to do. Matt got out and silently cursed. I was repeating a silent prayer in my head, like an endless mantra.

Ohmygawdweregonnadiedefinitelygonnadiepleasedontletusdie

There was nothing to do but keep going.

After the most nail biting, miserable hour of my life, we saw this:

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It was the Church of Agia Marina and it meant we had found a road. And a village.

And our sanity.

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We got back onto the road, found the first place to pull over, and stopped. We didn’t know whether to vomit, weep, or kiss the pavement.

We both stood beside the car, simply breathing deeply, eyes closed, feeling like we might pass out.

We were badly shaken and the Jeep…..oooooohhhhh nooooo….don’t even ask about the Jeep.

We heaved a sigh of relief as this donkey looked on in sympathy.

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We continued on down to Porto Limnionas. What else could we do? We sure as hell weren't turning around and going back.

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Desperately in need of a stiff drink, we made it to Porto Limnionas, found two loungers, and promptly ordered 2 caipirinhas. We finished them before the waiter could even walk away and ordered 2 more as he quietly looked at us and exclaimed, “Oh my.”

He had no idea what we’d just been through.

Somehow, we managed to shake the morning off and enjoy ourselves. It was probably the liquor. We decided not to worry about the Jeep. We’d try to buff it out later, and if we couldn’t, so be it. There was nothing we could do at this point.

So why not drink, lounge in the sun, and swim? We were in Greece on holiday, after all.

Porto Limionas was gorgeous. Not a beach, Porto Limionas is a narrow inlet fringed by limestone. More of what we used to call a “swimming hole” than a beach, the hillside is covered with stone terraces and sunbeds with umbrellas, where you can waste a day away sipping caipirinhas and forgetting about your scratched up Jeep.

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There was even a horrific and rusty old jumping platform that I simply couldn’t keep myself off of.

Tetanus be damned.

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When our nerves were finally numbed by alcohol, we drove a short way to Porto Schiza where we had lunch with the most stunning view.

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Greek salad; toasted bread with crushed tomatoes, capers, and feta; and pasta with a rich meat sauce went wonderfully with the red wine and the view to the sea.

It was time for Navagio Beach, aka Shipwreck Beach, the one obligatory tourist moment I insisted we have on this island. A beach only accessible by boat, the blinding white sand is dominated by the hulking rusty skeleton of a wrecked ship.

The first time I saw a photo of that beach from above, I was smitten. I didn’t care if I had to push my way through three busloads of senior citizens, I was going to see that view.

Matt was less than enthused. It is important to note that, 1) Matt hates anything crowded, 2) Matt hates anything touristy, and 3) Matt hates heights.

For Matt, my burning need to see Navagio from above was a trifecta of wretchedness.

We arrived and, as expected, the overlook area for Navagio was like Disney on steroids. It was like someone was giving away free puppies and money, there were so many people.

Technically, there are 2 overlooks for Navagio Beach. There is the official overlook, where most people go and patiently stand in line for their 10 second photo. Then there is the “you’re not supposed to go there” overlook that requires a 10 minute hike on a scrubby path with all the other people who have absolutely no concern about their own safety. This is the overlook at least one tourist falls to his or her death from each year. Of course this was the overlook I wanted to see. I’ll have none of your official, let’s put up a metal barricade so no one can die taking their picture, thankyouverymuch. I preferred to risk my life for my selfie.

What I didn’t anticipate was just how many other fools were willing to walk out on the same ledge. While the vast majority of people were waiting in the official line for the crap view, there were still an awful lot of rule breakers trekking out the path that led to the alternate view. I fully realized that I had been sucked into the Instagram Vortex when I passed an Asian girl in a sparkly ball gown and heels…on a treacherous cliff walk, for goodness sakes.

I almost turned back. I hate to be “one of the crowd,” but ooohhhh, I wanted to see that view.

Matt. Hated. Every. Moment.

He walked about 50 feet back from the crumbling edge, filled with all manner of loose rock, grumbling the whole way.

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“Come see this view,” I would pause and shout.

Grumble.

“Matt, this is AH-MAZING…come look!” I’d scream enthusiastically.

Grumble. Grumble.

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Eventually we made it out and Matt glowered as I got my requisite shot. I made him get in one too. I think his face says it all.

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We pushed our way through the hordes of bloggers and social media junkies, and the occasional girl in a prom dress, and hopped in our Jeep to high tail it back to the villa. It had been a long and nerve wrenching day. We needed some down time.

Oh…but look SHOPPING!

I was exhausted UNTIL I saw several beautiful shops with gorgeous jewelry, rugs, and dishware.

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And then we stumbled across the most amazing little winery. Art & Wine was located in a lovingly restored stone building, surrounded by vineyards, olive trees, and lemons. In their own words, they offer "fine Greek wine from the Ionian, made in the old ways and certified by the modern. In our winery you will find not regular, commercial labels, but only varieties provided within the history and culture of the Heptanese: rare, red Avgoustiatis and lively, golden Robola."

Not only does he make wine, but Giannis Giatras also does religious painting in his nearby creative workshop.

The place was serene, raw, and authentic.

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We were so tired when we finally arrived back that we decided we didn’t want to get back in that Jeep. We spent the evening with wine down by the sea. When we finally got hungry, we made the leisurely walk back over to Ammoudi and grabbed a light dinner of stuffed peppers, chicken salad, and garlic dip.

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So far, this vacation had not been as relaxing as we had hoped.

Maybe we could crank down the excitement factor in the days to come….

Posted by vicki_h 05:59 Archived in Greece Tagged greece corfu zante kefalonia greek_islands ionian_islands zykanthos shipwreck_beach navagio_beach cephalonia Comments (0)

Get Her to the Greek: Day One

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger...Doesn't It?

Unless you are talking about getting hit by a bus, in which case, you certainly wouldn’t end up stronger. You’d end up with a funny limp and a medical assistance border collie named Fergus.

But I digress….

Back to the story at hand.

I was drowsing lazily in a fluffy white bed, gauzy curtains breezing around me as a ceiling fan slowly whump-whump-whumped from the ceiling. I could hear the ocean waves just below the villa. I rolled over languidly when…

….suddenly I heard a screeching like a bat and a fire alarm had an unholy baby. What is it Lassie? Is it a hurricane flood warning? Are tornadoes coming? Is the villa on fire???

No. It was just the alarm clock. The 6:00 a.m. alarm clock. On my first day of vacation. In Greece.

This was so WRONG.

In our exhausted stupor of the night before, we had apparently agreed to pay Antonia’s nephew to take us out on his boat IMMEDIATELY. No unpacking, no settling in, no buying food. Just jump up, get dressed, and get on the boat. Antonia has been so insistent and we simply didn't have the heart to hurt her feelings.

I didn't even WANT to do a boat trip on Zakynthos. It wasn't part of the PLAN.

Y’all know how much I hate interrupted plans.

My itinerary (of course there was an itinerary…who do you think I am?), included sleeping in, making the short 2 minute drive to the market for food, and lazing around the villa until lunchtime, when we would pry ourselves off our chairs and make our way to a beach.

It did not include getting up at some profane hour and jumping in a boat to God Knows Where with no breakfast.

And no coffee.

Oh, hell to the no……I didn’t have any coffee!!!

We had 20 minutes. That was just enough time to run to the market before getting on the boat. We could make it. We ran out of the villa before remembering we didn’t have the car keys.

Or any keys.

We had locked ourselves out.

We wasted our beautiful 20 minutes getting the housekeeper to let us back in.

I was cursing under my breath...…when Antonia came out of her little cottage with a complete breakfast tray. AND COFFEE. That gained her a few points back that she'd lost for the whole you-get-on-boat debacle.

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“I knew you had no time for food or grocery. I make breakfast. Eat. Then go.”

Lovely, beautiful, blessed Antonia.

Jackie O stood sentry while we had crispy toasted gouda sandwiches with basil and a plate of fresh tomatoes.

She won points for breakfast, but I was still secretly wishing upon Antonia that every chocolate chip cookie she ate for the rest of her life turned out to be raisins – because really…the boat? I didn’t want to go out on any boat.

For one thing, there was nothing I wanted to see by boat. For another, it was WINDY and the boat was SMALL. I know what that means.

I was having flashbacks to the ill-fated whale shark tour we had done in Roatan where the boat bounced so violently that the captain had to move me to the front and tether me to the seat with ropes for fear that I would be catapulted into the waves. My tailbone never recovered. And I'm pretty sure I'm still an inch shorter than I was.

Our captain spoke little to no English. As Matt tried to extract from him exactly where we would be going, we climbed in and our fate was sealed.

“Caves?” he asked us.

Matt looked at me and shrugged.

“Caves are good,” I said.

Whew. I was afraid he was going to try to take us to Shipwreck Beach. While I wanted to see it from above, I had no desire to see Shipwreck from below. THIS is not my idea of a fabulous vacation moment:

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I'd sooner shave my head in exchange for a McRib Combo Meal than go to that beach. Or go back to middle school.... with a bad haircut and the wrong shoes. Heck, I'd rather sleep naked on a gas station bathroom floor than go to that beach. Me and crowds don't mix. Especially on beaches.

The caves were actually supposed to be quite phenomenal. I knew the caves were close by and would keep us close to the shore where the water was calmer. I also assumed it would be a short trip and get us back before lunch. Maybe this wasn't so bad.

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Despite being torn from my beautiful villa so early on my first day, the boat ride was lovely. The water shimmered in every color of blue and the cliffs rose dramatically beside the boat. The caves were beautiful and mysterious and we felt we had this liquid world to ourselves.

Except when he decided to go INSIDE one of the caves. And got the boat stuck. And knocked the bimini top off. But we made it out. All good.

I was feeling pretty good about the boat ride, assuming that we’d spend these couple of hours in the morning looking at the caves and we’d be back before lunch and could resume our day, uninterrupted.

That’s when the captain abruptly turned the boat to open sea, cranked it up to high gear, and headed north.

As my body was slammed onto the hard seat again and again, and my spine literally lost inches with each minute that passed, I looked at Matt, stricken. I was going to be 4'8" by the time this ride was over and I was pretty sure I had just bitten my tongue.

“Where are we going?” I mouthed to Matt.

He shrugged. “What else is out here?” he mouthed back.

Oh dear sweet baby Jesus in a manger….we were going to Shipwreck Beach. That meant at least a 1 hour body pounding ride that would take us around the north tip of the island to the other side. If it was this rough in the calm bay, I could only imagine what would happen to us when we left the protected coast and traveled around. I already felt like I had been shot out of a canon onto a very wet, bucking bull ride.

Not only that, I looked out to sea and saw several MASSIVE boats loaded with hundreds of people heading to the same place.

Um…no. I hadn't traveled 33 hours to spend my first day getting beat to death on a small boat for 2 hours just to see a beach covered with ten thousand people.

“ABORT! ABORT!” I used every secret hand signal and mind control effort to send my thoughts to Matt and he picked up what I was laying down. God bless 19 years of marriage. He can read me like a cheap paperback.

“Hey, buddy,” Matt said in his perfect southern drawl, “Exactly where are we headed?”

“Shipwreck. You go Shipwreck. Everyone go Shipwreck,” he replied.

“Nah…” Matt said, “We don’t want to go to Shipwreck. We’d just like to poke around the bay here and head back.”

The captain looked at us like we had just sprouted 4 heads, but he turned back, saving my sanity and my spine.

Instead, we made a leisurely stop at the beautifully deserted Xigia Beach. This was more my speed. We enjoyed the pebbled beach and crystal clear water before jumping back into the boat and asking him to take us back.

The beach had two sides, separated by an outcropping of rock. One side had loungers, umbrellas, and quite a few people. Our side? Blissfully deserted.

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As we pulled back to Ammoudi, we had a beautiful view of our villa from the water:

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We made it back just before lunch and had time to explore our digs a little bit. It had been too dark the night before and too rushed that morning.

Paradisso Beach Villas is essentially a beachfront mansion that has been divided into a trio of incredibly lovely properties. We had rented Villa Antonia, the top floor of the main house. It was simply exquisite.

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We wanted to head to lunch and the beach so we did the only thing we could, for fear that Antonia would realize we had bailed early on the boat trip…we hid behind bushes and ran to our Jeep.

We relied heavily on Google Maps on our iPhones on this trip. Sometimes it worked (like the night before in the dark, thankyoujesus). Sometimes it didn’t.

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At some point, we found ourselves on a terrible dirt road, littered with the occasional discarded mattress and lots of goats but not much else.

“Are you sure this is right?” Matt asked.

“Heck if I know, it’s where Google said to go.” It was then that we saw the REAL road (i.e., the paved road with no dirty mattresses or fear of lurking hobos) running parallel to us, just down the mountain a bit. Live and learn. At least it got us there intact.

We had seen the beautiful Xigia beach from below, so we decided to enjoy it from above, stopped at the Xigia Tavern, perched precariously on the cliff’s edge with a bird’s eye view of the stunning shoreline.

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We selected a table with a view (they all had views….) and ordered our first Greek feast: olives and wine, bread with fresh tomatoes and crumbled feta cheese, a tomato salad, pasta with meatballs, and grilled shrimp. We ate while watching the huge boats pull up to the beach below, the beach that was uninhabited except for us just hours earlier was now crawling with hundreds of desperate, sweaty bodies.

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Do you see that HUGE boat? Do you know how many people are on that? Do you know how small that beach was? Madness.

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We smiled and sipped our wine, lazy cats twining around our ankles (We learned on day one that every restaurant came with cats. Lots of cats. Lots and lots of cats.)

With the bill came the ever present little plate of watermelon. They simply couldn’t bear to see you leave without offering you something sweet, more like a kind friend than a proprietor.

Even though we’d had sufficient beach time, we decided to make the drive to Makris Gialos Beach and see if it was worth the fuss. En route, we saw a fresh orange juice stand. I’m a sucker for a painted van, so we stopped. The views alone were worth the stop, but that juice….oh my.

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Makris Gialos was beautiful, but we were both hankering to get back to our own place and stretch out in privacy.

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We headed back to the villa and traded time between our seafront daybed and the loungers down by the sea. We were joined by a wet Jackie who stood sentry while we read books and sipped wine.

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After a lazy afternoon, we cleaned up and walked down to the Ammoudi Fish Tavern for cocktails (and cats). Their caipirinha was spot on. It was quickly becoming a favorite spot to end the day.

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As the sun began to set, we drove the short distance to To Petrodosiako for dinner. I loved the quiet rural simplicity of the villages.

And I loved this GOAT!

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Dinner was a gluttonous affair, with garlic dip, arugula and parmesan salad, baked feta, stewed beef, and pastitsio, a baked pasta dish with gooey cheese and béchamel. It was like mac n’cheese on steroids.

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As usual, they couldn’t let us leave without a small gift of food or drink. This time is was a frozen limoncello, so delicious it made me want to cry.

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Posted by vicki_h 05:31 Archived in Greece Tagged greece corfu zante kefalonia greek_islands ionian_islands zykanthos shipwreck_beach navagio_beach cephalonia Comments (0)

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