A Travellerspoint blog

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.

46280412202_0577d62e05.jpg

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

44514065170_3960f5ff12.jpg

46330727001_db4f4aae87.jpg

45418131945_16911bbe83.jpg

44513963350_1dde0cf3fd.jpg

45607298544_2b9a952832.jpg

45607271394_f57265066f.jpg

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.

45607260824_e4a7eafc12.jpg

45418074395_6c88c495a2.jpg

46280246262_29dfb4e0b7.jpg

32458479358_2e702da412.jpg

45607218434_e9e0620bba.jpg

45607204674_9149f10b7b.jpg

44513874720_bbf1bd0c87.jpg

32458399268_1e91eda8a1.jpg

31391506037_4bf554317f.jpg

45417990945_6f9435a6d1.jpg

45607144604_73d8a1d175.jpg

45607136694_e7e6f458b5.jpg

45417934105_05496fd091.jpg

44513783440_467bdf2379.jpg

31391455577_634a00b06b.jpg

32458341358_f24f5ab2be.jpg

46280137152_49ec4ae78b.jpg

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.

45606743374_1dbfdbb91d.jpg

“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.

45417573355_ec13cf48ca.jpg

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

46279726032_542f7db7b8.jpg

32457950098_002fb4aaed.jpg

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.

31391023387_2eded87a0d.jpg

45606694704_4b9ba25afc.jpg

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.

31391413697_6385c4b67c.jpg

31391399107_deeef2b0b2.jpg

46330407851_ff6aa27119.jpg

46330386501_333ce875e4.jpg

45607007614_848b1260a9.jpg

31391315857_0655214b14.jpg

32458203438_e1d14d47e7.jpg

32458187858_38caf77b7d.jpg

44513624560_7a581eb4fc.jpg

33547474158_4fbb332098.jpg

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.

46330310221_72c63390ff.jpg

45606927024_bdf46a1cc8.jpg

45606915194_c24eedc6cf.jpg

46279877372_a65d42f67c.jpg

45417766345_5f65902c91.jpg

45606884164_e9f39b0cc9.jpg

44513529630_4386ea8b54.jpg

32458075468_028933872f.jpg

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.

31391158767_18cc4f5316.jpg

45417682215_8085cecec4.jpg

44513484000_ba08eea1bb.jpg

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.

46279844222_9e8612a245.jpg

32458024198_63064845b9.jpg

46330154031_ea018670cd.jpg

46330137771_f03a01376e.jpg

44513419250_3c914f8d1e.jpg

46279767322_a9363fde7f.jpg

46279753112_410426b55d.jpg

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.

44513336440_176a87c41b.jpg

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.

32457879308_eba5850a7b.jpg

31390398737_51985e925e.jpg

32457298088_fa3bdef4c3.jpg

32457223378_84baf1c754.jpg

32457211048_1bca2d38c9.jpg

44512591440_fe03010d40.jpg

45416880145_7671dab5db.jpg

45416856235_2f9e9db879.jpg

46279052172_ac21d7eb92.jpg

32457273398_25f496d910.jpg

32457195248_ef5165b717.jpg

44512583030_bac812736f.jpg

46278954342_b6ace0c937.jpg

46329180871_a5ca441519.jpg

45416802145_83168a6a60.jpg

45605880084_b871f5eb0d.jpg

32481452057_590b32a988.jpg

46700252384_5d6b42e346.jpg

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.

46278923212_1e80c99a98.jpg

45605850354_f4bab65bd0.jpg

44512500050_69929c3ce9.jpg

46329120531_9f55d47509.jpg

31390189577_3e62e091f1.jpg

44512469390_2cd73b3307.jpg

32457091328_9c00c02346.jpg

32457079548_0cdf693f4d.jpg

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.

45889927452_4854eef843.jpg

45939394191_7aaec1c3a0.jpg

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.

45889908662_ee0dc65246.jpg

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.

33551011198_a7e21cff88.jpg

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.

33551011268_0d49174acf.jpg

But we didn’t know that yet.

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

La te da. Here we go.

44123124910_0cb44b3660.jpg

45889771742_fba800c513.jpg

45215061574_1aeddef0c9.jpg

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.

33551011228_0f789d410d.jpg

46703819684_aec6e412e3.jpg

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.

45027072145_911369c9d8.jpg

45939310561_bc86efba0a.jpg

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:

47371173762_3769b960ca.jpg

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:

33551011258_768880de9f.jpg

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:

45939166771_0b83f79171.jpg

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

And our sanity.

45214978544_76e9278139.jpg

45214946004_c132147c22.jpg

44122857200_ac2e1a007a.jpg

32067857068_6df3e21173.jpg

31000229267_3a04617833.jpg

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.

44122764940_7d3198a323.jpg

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

45889546082_5e118dbb5c.jpg

45214801844_22c3aaa431.jpg

45136434134_004818ac41.jpg

32067716538_5cbdeef003.jpg

31000109907_b81e2d06e4.jpg

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.

32067653098_4759185fa0.jpg

32067607028_f67e03bd97.jpg

30999986427_644e87a9e1.jpg

45026608975_e7e9a038cf.jpg

32067537858_2c6ddbe804.jpg

45938773481_a192daeebd.jpg

30999950937_aee8a727de.jpg

45889209472_17f7cf8c43.jpg

45938681931_b694c9cf68.jpg

45026393675_7fd302cfd7.jpg

45026339105_6b042f2eec.jpg

30999783197_75e8ecefd4.jpg

45026409725_0bdb1e2b2e.jpg

32067421278_d14497f62c.jpg

32067439858_930441c6db.jpg

45214482574_a00b71044f.jpg

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

Tetanus be damned.

45026320365_6f93ca4560.jpg

45026288775_91fbd7600a.jpg

30999635617_4f8b1e3714.jpg

30999600387_0eef96aac6.jpg

45214163404_922415f5d9.jpg

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.

31989763038_439d35ee24.jpg

44947798365_c0d03c99a1.jpg

44044222800_52c04ba6d9.jpg

45811378822_781731b680.jpg

44947843955_2cef572fa7.jpg

44044137740_1523cee046.jpg

47370487662_4603ed54f8.jpg

30921646897_712bdd269c.jpg

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.

30921545557_ed57d468a6.jpg

45860642911_c0ede60747.jpg

45860627651_81c22eaed6.jpg

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

Grumble.

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

Grumble. Grumble.

47423328561_74d1993af5.jpg

30921475847_034ceaf6f1.jpg

45136068424_544bf8a135.jpg

30921365187_a23abdebf0.jpg

44043839030_f7e69e4aaa.jpg

45214469074_607d6ddb52.jpg

46508144135_f0a0329e34.jpg

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.

40457663223_b5efdbf364.jpg

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.

45136260454_b02935d03a.jpg

45136225624_63cc3f24c6.jpg

45136200114_75fb31bf00.jpg

44043818400_cd12fe5a21.jpg

30921306407_cc4d7284b1.jpg

44947362645_655a49e598.jpg

45860420411_0f8505dc98.jpg

45810965282_25809d7983.jpg

31989207488_1c63a49746.jpg

44043706160_ef381cf767.jpg

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.

44947271935_b618a65bb3.jpg

44043663870_c5c7be97d8.jpg

45860306031_8b7d017ef7.jpg

45860288431_33e0dfbeef.jpg

44947196945_d2f9549fde.jpg

45860226031_0f8b81d53c.jpg

45860204781_d85716c311.jpg

31989040818_f1954b65da.jpg

44947121535_483a256a8a.jpg

44043486000_e816aedfa9.jpg

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.

46508154395_1557e1aa5b.jpg

45135527474_b1e29a4b1c.jpg

44947092285_0597f3409d.jpg

44947073095_55a90695a9.jpg

30920947617_b3dcbc83b6.jpg

45810633792_b1b60459b4.jpg

45135490024_910b20d55c.jpg

30920828247_511ddbb64d.jpg

45135438194_edaa57616b.jpg

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.

30620776617_b916713f6a.jpg

“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:

shipwreck.JPG

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.

43744210630_1c98aa1869.jpg

44836758184_e7ab8f5880.jpg

31689308058_832e006764.jpg

45511341222_5a2b69a6f2.jpg

44647508305_5ed5ba8fa5.jpg

30620604137_be3d979fc2.jpg

30620568347_c791ae3ba4.jpg

45561653391_850262d896.jpg

44647413795_872a5f61a2.jpg

44836466454_9bbd3b6d19.jpg

30620374347_66eca981a1.jpg

44836326704_e3d46c8dbf.jpg

45511255152_b91db741ea.jpg

44647106835_595415e81b.jpg

45561223611_3eab2c7126.jpg

31688852098_e068229fc9.jpg

31688921118_28a39d2eeb.jpg

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.

45510782212_2ea413d693.jpg

44835595314_c4bf8e120b.jpg

45561104851_b906f3e4b6.jpg

30619965617_a84c6095e2.jpg

43743348690_098d659698.jpg

43743310130_84ccb2b73b.jpg

45510508412_5f3a04a821.jpg

44835618584_b564fe3680.jpg

30619707547_a838feb298.jpg

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

45510302252_5c2335cd4f.jpg

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.

44834387834_e61b81c11e.jpg

45508827312_088fe69b66.jpg

44645001045_dbd7a404ac.jpg

43744439250_6235376b3c.jpg

30620960057_f3c67c5acf.jpg

45562045391_53155894b5.jpg

31689586468_04e42931e4.jpg

30620927017_6e27c2a4b9.jpg

30620912787_02dacf6192.jpg

44647879285_e078fe9f22.jpg

44647868395_d4d1581943.jpg

45509083182_dfe7986096.jpg

31689494878_e55f38cfb8.jpg

43744276970_cc36ec510f.jpg

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.

30619583167_5791eb4f9b.jpg

30619536677_f9080a0d6f.jpg

45560537571_50b263bb86.jpg

44835373184_368e71f9f8.jpg

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.

30619372227_6086d10e2e.jpg

43742821470_269ea9c4c7.jpg

44835003784_0c5e937a1f.jpg

30619041657_d14a8e6e35.jpg

30618997977_f9283d9fa6.jpg

43742364800_d6a0deb7b0.jpg

47423261021_bfbce61a9e.jpg

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.

45509776012_987d5c98f3.jpg

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

44646245875_0de490c848.jpg

45509956872_0c7f189a80.jpg

43742702590_e9f203e0bc.jpg

31687709248_91b423fe23.jpg

44835145284_0425cd9c50.jpg

45560206121_4cf36b8db7.jpg

44835091404_180ddaf678.jpg

43742558260_f6310ee69f.jpg

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.

44834599114_c7eb8f9306.jpg

45559579561_7f41032955.jpg

31687007068_abbdbefe1b.jpg

44645400745_c1cb6a56a4.jpg

45559450151_81dd46f842.jpg

45559463881_b75f669e9f.jpg

30618479227_a60794d004.jpg

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

30618683017_14553e5dca.jpg

44645752725_7f9fee7a02.jpg

30618815017_1df29818a9.jpg

31687211328_1801aea79f.jpg

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.

44834275114_1b55aa4e95.jpg

45508920702_4600e5431f.jpg

30618179167_dce9b149dd.jpg

33547399628_5d89a8b4c6.jpg

30618237727_f10de8c545.jpg

43741753190_fd7b2d3174.jpg

44834362304_db750b6829.jpg

45509121482_bcc7c2169b.jpg

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.

30618081737_2528159f82.jpg

43741473520_3e3ba99e0d.jpg

30618061867_ba3fdd3f61.jpg

33547409778_366f5d191d.jpg

45559053961_f3dcc932e9.jpg

31686512888_6b5564a751.jpg

44644899045_87f9da435c.jpg

45508702882_131b55d8e1.jpg

45559073031_68745c13d9.jpg

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!

43741924750_13e79ed06b.jpg

44645326365_f65e36f5ab.jpg

45558987091_4c6a0d28f7.jpg

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.

45558971981_671859e0b3.jpg

44644820485_e1998b31ee.jpg

45558929131_c4bfd39bb0.jpg

31686431338_f30acf8e48.jpg

44644802065_c5afbf98c6.jpg

44644792915_00e6e7c067.jpg

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.

47370464852_7ef9737e72.jpg

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)

Get Her to the Greek: Travel Day

Keep Going…..We’re Getting There

T.S. Eliot said, “The journey, not the arrival, matters.” Obviously, T.S. Eliot never flew American Airlines from Tennessee to Greece in a coach seat.

I had, but, inexplicably, I found myself doing it again.

Apparently, flying coach to Greece is like having a baby. You forget how bad it is until you find yourself panting and screaming for an epidural.

44837119284_fbe1edb81c.jpg

We left our house at 3:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, only to arrive in Philadelphia at 7:30 a.m. for a 12 HOUR LAYOVER.

Yes. You read that correctly.

A 12 HOUR LAYOVER.

That was American Airlines' way of making sure we were exhausted when we finally boarded our 7 hour overnight flight later that day.

The only silver lining in this very dark cloud was the fact that my childhood BFF lives in Philadelphia and I got to spend the day with her. We dropped Matt off at a cheesy downtown casino and we spa’d, sipped champers, and laughed like we were still 13 years old. We picked Matt up and enjoyed our final non-airport meal for a while, then headed back to the airport to endure the next 24 hours of abject misery.

40457583733_3471f4296b.jpg

40457584783_e6e1a444e0.jpg

46508067025_035d8ae6d8.jpg

How miserable?

We enjoyed a delightful 7 hour overnight flight in crap coach seats only to arrive in London….an overnight flight where we did not sleep but instead watched lots of movies and drank lots of beer and wine (which we thought would make us sleep, but which only made us have to get up to pee a lot). I did get one brief moment of joy when my meal turned out to be vegetable lasagna. Who doesn't remember "vegetable lasagna" from Seinfeld??? Matt had to endure an hour of punchy vegetable lasagna jokes.

32481350057_0f74515dff.jpg

47423256021_3b4085dc41.jpg

Once in London, we waited 4 hours to board a 4 hour flight to Athens. Once in Athens, we waited 2 hours to board a quick 1 hour flight to the island of Zakynthos.

Funny enough, all of that travel was forgotten when we neared the tiny Zakynthos airport, the sun setting over the mountains. We'd been in transit for 2 solid days, but here we were.

47423251601_686af2035f.jpg

When we landed in Zakynthos, we were rumpled, cranky, and bleary eyed. We had been awake for 33 hours, other than a few sad, wine-soaked hours trying to sleep in an upright position while listening to the guy eating pretzels in the row behind us. All we wanted to do was fall into a soft bed and sleep. Unfortunately, we had to get our rental Jeep and make a 30 minute drive in the dark, on twisty roads, with signs we couldn’t read.

“What did that sign say?” Matt asked.

“Anapafseos?” I muttered, staring with hope at the Google map on my iPhone and hoping it knew where we were going.

“Bless you,” Matt replied.

Somehow…we made it. In the dark. Starving. Exhausted.

Paradisso Beach Villas was a welcome haven. A complex of 3 villas set on an oceanfront cliff, the property was an oasis of rest and peace. The ornate villas were only 25 feet from the sea.

As we swayed with exhaustion in the breezy oceanfront air, our exuberant hostess, Antonia, came running out of her small cottage with open arms, followed by Jackie O, a giant schnauzer, bouncing cheerfully like an overgrown child.

This first stop on our Ionian journey was the island of Zykanthos, often called Zante. It is known for the famous “Shipwreck Beach,” or Navagio Beach, one of the most over-Instagrammed locations on earth, but beautiful nonetheless. I am not ashamed to admit it is what drew me to the island.

Zakynthos is deserving of the moniker ‘schizophrenic’. The southeast end of the island is heavily commercialized, littered with overcrowded beaches and 20somethings jacked up on Red Bull and hormones. Jet skis and giant inflatable sofas pulled behind speed boats fill the water as techno beats pump through the air. Thankfully, this part of the island is easy to avoid. Paradisso Beach Villas sat on the northeast corner of the island, where more common sights were street side tables selling locally made olive oil and wine , livestock, and low key beach tavernas.

“Vicki, Vicki, Welcome!” she said, hugging me and planting a kiss on my cheek as though we were old friends.

It was 8:00 p.m., so she gave us the world’s fastest tour (knowing we were exhausted) and showed us the little footpath that would take us just a moment down the beach to several restaurants. As we were walking away, she was shouting something about a boat ,her nephew, tomorrow morning….we were too tired to listen.

Mistake.

We found ourselves at Ammoudi Fish Taverna in just moments. It was a simple seafront restaurant with the most delicious smells emanating from the kitchen. We literally fell into chairs and enjoyed a dinner of goat cheese and arugula salad, mussels, pasta Bolognese, and seafood pasta. As we were paying our bill, they brought out a little plate of watermelon and limoncello. I never tired of Mediterranean hospitality.

44837036404_c641943915.jpg

45562201831_db73ddfefb.jpg

43744523710_ec734d43cc.jpg

44648023735_febe3ec2e2.jpg

44837073744_66e1bb3f12.jpg

31689638118_c7d7d89e9f.jpg

When we arrived back at the villa we had a note.

“Arrive at boat below house tomorrow. 7:00 a.m.”

WTF? (which obviously means, “What the Feta?”)

Posted by vicki_h 05:40 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: Intro

Five years after our trip to the whitewashed enchantment of the Cyclades Islands in Greece, I found myself dreaming of a return to those idyllic islands. The simplicity, the food, the stunning beauty….it had been intoxicating and it was luring me back with its siren song.

I was ready to do it.

But….WHERE to go???

One minute I’m all like "time to hit the Greek islands ," and the next I was faced with the daunting task of choosing a tiny smidge of some 227 inhabited islands, each one as beautiful as the next. It was like being at an exquisite buffet and being told I can put 3 things on my plate.

The struggle was REAL. With so many beautiful islands to choose from, how were we supposed to settle on just a few? I Googled. I Binged. I Instagrammed. I read every article, blog, and book I could find. I even put together a powerpoint of options and made Matt watch it. You think I’m joking don’t you?

At the end of my search, I found what I was looking for. Once Matt and I saw it, we knew it was where we wanted to go.

Just barely west of mainland Greece, the Ionian Islands are a far cry from the Cyclades Islands. Flat, dry landscapes are replaced by towering green mountains vaulting out of the sea. Simple whitewashed block structures with striking blue doors are swapped for anything from Italianate villas and beautiful neoclassical mansions to stone built houses with tiled roofs and vivid colors splashed on their walls.

This verdant sprawl of striking landscapes clutching to the northwest bit of mainland Greece caught our eye, filled with seaside towns, endless breathtaking vistas, and lush mountains, dense and overgrown with olive, cypress, and fig trees, plunging into shimmering turquoise waters. It appeared to be a true Garden of Eden. But with lots of feta cheese.

With only enough time to visit a few islands, we settled on beach-blessed Zakynthos, naturally beautiful Kefalonia, and cosmopolitan Corfu.

It’s time to go back to Greece, y’all!

greece.jpg

Posted by vicki_h 18:10 Archived in Greece Tagged greece corfu zante kefalonia greek_islands ionian_islands zykanthos shipwreck_beach navagio_beach cephalonia Comments (0)

(Entries 16 - 20 of 252) « Page 1 2 3 [4] 5 6 7 8 9 10 .. »