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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.


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.


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.




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.




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.




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.


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.





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.


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

My Big Fat Greek Vacation: Travel Day

Get her to the Greek


It’s 9:15 a.m. in Athens and we have just crawled off a 9 hour flight that followed an 8 hour layover in Philly after a 2 hour flight from Knoxville. Our internal clocks are confused and we are bleary-eyed, wrinkled, our hair is a mess, and I’m pretty sure we smell. I am desperately in need of coffee, a bed, and a bath, not necessarily in that order. Unfortunately, we have a 7 hour layover in Athens before catching our flight to our final destination, the island of Milos.

We know better than to sleep at this point which would just confuse the clocks in our heads even more than they already are, so instead, we hand over €15 to the bag check guy at the airport and catch the metro to downtown Athens.

Maybe it’s just because I’ve been awake for 22 hours, but Athens seems unbearably hot, loud, and dirty.

We are trying to find To Kafenio, a quaint coffee shop I had read about. Yes, leave it to me to try to find a single, tiny coffee shop in a huge, strange city with no real directions and streets designed like a maze written in a language that doesn’t even use the same alphabet. Armed with nothing more than a Google map printed from the internet, we dodge speeding cars and tourist hordes for about 30 very sweaty minutes before figuring out we are going in a circle.

I give up and slump down at a wooden table outside a closed café, defeated.




Our nerves are shot and we are seconds away from murdering each other in the street out of sheer frustration when I see a sign on the street corner, “To Kafenio.”


We sigh and slip into a quiet oasis in the midst of bustling Plaka.

The coffee shop is quaint, filled with odd chairs and wooden tables flanked by benches strewn with cozy, mismatched pillows. Light streams in through the open back door as a steaming cappucino is placed in front of me.



Aaahhhh…..coffee……..It’s like nectar of the Gods. I feel I might survive this day after all.


We rest for a bit and then steel our nerves, ready to tackle the obligatory visit to the Acropolis.

It is what we expect: a juxtaposition. The massive ruins of the gateway, the temples, the Parthenon, and the statues stand as a testament to the Greek civilization….they are beautiful and stately and speak of a rich history.





It is hard to appreciate them, however, because thousands of sweaty tourists cover every inch like swarming ants, shouting to one another, jockeying for position to get their photo op, carrying their big gulp lemonades and peering out from under their sun visors.


We love it and we hate it.


We move on. We find a quiet neighborhood and wander through the streets.




It’s 5:00 a.m. Tennessee time, but our stomachs disagree. They have already adjusted to Greece time and tell us that it is, indeed, noon. We are hungry.

We skip the restaurants in Plaka which seem to be as crowded as the Acropolis and head for Oinoscent, a fairly new and highly lauded wine bar near the Syntagma Square metro station that I discovered in my internet research.

Unlike the rest of Athens, Oinoscent is clean, fresh, quiet, and smoke free.


The menu is in Greek, so we use the “point and grunt” method of ordering that served us so well in Italy. Unfortunately, we have NO IDEA what we are ordering, so the young man helping us translates for us. It turns out he is one of the young brothers who own the place, and as we get the food order out of the way and move to wine, it becomes quickly apparent that he is passionate about his wine.

We are honest and tell him we know nothing about Greek wine (or any wine for that matter….a good bottle of wine to us costs about $8). He asks if we’d like him to bring us some things to sample and tell us about them.

We are tired and hungry, but he is so enthusiastic, we nod an exhausted “yes.”

Within moments a platter of local meat and cheese arrives along with a bowl of olives and barley rusks (think big, fat rustic croutons soaking in olive oil).



As we munch, he sets down two glasses of different wines, along with the bottles, and proceeds to educate us about the grapes, the vineyard, and probably about the mule that carried the bottles from the farm in a donkey cart.

Seriously. He knows everything.

I’m sure if I wasn’t half asleep, I might have better luck understanding his accent and broken English, but as it is, I catch about every 6th word. It sounds a lot like, “gadf kadflda sdkjagk TANNINS alda dkjfldjfdk lakjf d kafdjldf lkjfajf sdfaiuere GRAPES adfjklsdf lewuer aewepeule sdfaskjup maaz FLAVOR….”

He is gesturing and emphatic, showing me the bottle, letting me see the cork….I keep looking at Matt for help, but he is pretending to study his shoe so intently that the young man keeps his attention focused on me.

At one point, he draws me a map of Folegandros, the island that we will be visiting after Milos. He hands it to me on the back of a receipt….a few circles and lines….and tells me something about somewhere and I have no idea what he is saying, but I nod vigorously as Matt stares at his shoe some more.

I take the map/receipt and thank him assuring him we’ll go there…wherever “there” is….

He is so nice and he is so zealous about his wine that I wish we weren’t so tired that all we really want to do is beg for another bowl of those fat croutons.

In all, we sample 4 wines and he tells us a great deal about each one and I sincerely wish I knew what he said.

I leave as ignorant about Greek wine as I arrived. Maybe more, because I am pretty sure I am losing a significant number of brain cells as each additional hour without sleep passes.



We manage to make it back to the airport without incident (unless you count the shouting match I got into with a rude street cart vendor over whether I could or could not take a photo of the street) and finally climb onto the final airplane of the day…our flight to the island of Milos. It is 4:30 p.m. in Athens and we have been awake for 28 ½ hours.

I’m starting to feel a little bit pathetic. And ragged. My hair is limp, my feet are hurting, and I’d sell my kidney for a toothbrush. The flight attendant must sense this, because, as she hands everyone else a small bag of peanuts on the flight, she asks me if I would like a chocolate croissant.

Um… yes, please?

I eat the croissant like a woman who has just spent 3 years in a Turkish prison.

Matt eyes it longingly and I remind him about the staring at the shoe business while I got a 2 hour lesson in Greek wines as I shove the last bite in my mouth. At this point, it’s each man for himself.

At long last, I see Milos shimmering in the distance like a mirage.

It is possible? Are we finally here? Or am I so tired I’m starting to hallucinate?

My dream of a vacation in the Greek islands is about to come true.

Posted by vicki_h 05:24 Archived in Greece Tagged greece santorini milos folegandros Comments (2)

My Big Fat Greek Vacation: Intro

A dream in blue and white.

It’s late evening on a small island in the Aegean Sea. I am stretched out on a sun bed watching the sky change from blue to gold to orange. Sunset is the enchanted hour here. It’s the time when the water becomes still, like glass, and the white washed houses take on the color of gold as the air turns cool and crisp, giving some relief from the dry heat of the day. A shimmer of sunlight dances on the water, and I can hear the waves rolling the smooth pebbles so that they tinkle like bells just below my feet. Matt is smiling as he walks toward me with two cocktails so that we can soak up the last light of the day together.

We have captured something elusive here…. an essence, a feeling, that bit of magic that we look for as we travel that makes a place a part of our soul.

We are in Greece, and it has stolen us.


Posted by vicki_h 07:50 Archived in Greece Tagged greece santorini milos folegandros Comments (0)

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