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My Big Fat Greek Vacation: Day 5

Folegandros: A secret worth keeping.



Imagine a place so isolated that insurgents of the state are sent there for exile. Now, make that place so inviting that some of the exiles choose to settle there.

This is Folegandros, a rugged Greek island in the Aegean Sea.

It is smaller than most Greek islands, only about 6 miles long and 2 miles wide. It is harder to reach than the more popular Greek islands of Mykonos or Santorini, requiring a slow ferry ride on rough seas. It has no airport and cruise ships don't stop here. It is harder to pronounce too… Foe-LAY-gan-dross, it doesn't have any major ruins, no famous statues have been found here, and there is minimal public transportation. The land is covered by ancient terraces and rock walls, there are as many goats and donkeys taking up residence as humans, and some parts of the island don’t have electricity. There are just over 600 residents, no bank, and there is really only one small town to speak of.

Most tourists never find their way to Folegandros.

Folegandros is left to those lucky enough to spot it on a map and decide to take a chance on something different.

I definitely feel lucky.

The morning view of Folegandros from our suite at Anemomilos is insanely beautiful. The sky is painted in blue, pink, and orange and I can see the church high on the mountain above and can see the deep blue sea below me. I feel like I am sitting on the edge of the world.





We were supposed to have 2 days on Folegandros, but because of the ferry debacle, we now have one day. We pick and choose the things we want to see the most and head to breakfast to fuel up.







Anemomilos gets my vote for best breakfast. Not only do they have bread and cake, they have the prettiest yogurt with fruit, eggs to order, and a savory “pie of the day.”

The only thing better than breakfast cake is breakfast pie WITH breakfast cake.





We have rented a quad (better known as a 4-wheeler in Tennessee) because Folegandros is so small that a car seems like overkill and we are simply too lazy to walk. And we don’t want to be searching everywhere for that one taxi.


Besides, we have heard that these things are so dangerous as rentals, being snatched up and driven by people with no business being on them, that within a few years they will probably be banned as rentals in Greece. Apparently, the English and French are fairly capable on them; the Italians think they know all about scooters and tend to fall off and injure themselves; and we Americans, who know nothing about them at all, are hopelessly unqualified and are guaranteed to crash and cause a multiple pile-up within seconds of getting out on the road.

This makes it exciting.

After breakfast, we decide to take the quad and head up to the church.


It has a commanding presence.

The hilltop church of Panagia sits high above us, a zig-zagging trail of switchbacks snaking endlessly to its gates.

As he looks at all of those switchbacks, Matt decides he’s taking the quad up.

“I don’t think you can do that,” I say, nervously. “I’m pretty sure it’s only open to walking.”

I was that kid in school. You remember the one. The one that would say, "I'm telling the teacher," the second the rest of you started drawing on the chalkboard while she was out of the room. I got regular milk with my lunch even though my mom would have never known if I got chocolate. I saved my Halloween candy. I rode my bike with the brakes on. I was in bed by 8:00 p.m. even if my parents weren't watching. I always cleaned my plate.

Breaking rules makes me nervous.

“I don’t see any signs that say you can’t,” he says as he keeps heading the quad up what I am 99.99999% sure is a footpath.

I'm starting to have heart palpitations. I feel just like I did that time my big brother set that box on fire in the back yard.



I am starting to feel like we are “those Americans.” You know the ones.

The kind that talk too loud, wear brand new white sneakers and American flag t-shirts, demand a non-smoking table in a restaurant without a non-smoking section, ask for hamburgers and ketchup everywhere, repeatedly snap photos with a flash while people pray in a church, and climb all over a 1000 year-old statue so that they can post a selfie on Facebook.

We are zooming up a footpath in a historic Greek city toward a church built on the ruins of the ancient sanctuary of Artemis on a noisy 4-wheeler like some kind of Duck Dynasty commandos. Seriously, it just doesn’t get any worse.

Thankfully, we only get about 30 feet before we encounter a gate.

A gate they probably erected for Americans.

Matt pulls the quad off the path onto the dirt and we head up on foot.

The rest of the trip to the church is peaceful. It is quiet up here (without the quad) and the views are magnificent. We can see the entire island from here.

After walking what I estimate to be at least 11,578 steps, we reach the church. It is not open so early in the day, but we are able to walk around, taking in the views. I can see why many call Folegandros the “island of peace.”




We make our way back to our quad, hoping to dislodge it from the ditch we have stowed it in and quickly make an exit before anyone else approaches and realizes our serious faux pas.

We are not that lucky.

A group of about 15 locals is coming our way in track gear, apparently a running club. I brace myself for a serious tongue lashing, or at least some disgusted glances thrown my way.

I feel like blurting out, "We are American," which I have learned in the past few days can explain away any odd behavior, faux pas, or legal violation. It's practically a Get Out of Jail Free card.

But the Greek people once again show us how kind and gracious they are.

They see our plight, laugh, and toss their hands up and say, “It happens!”

The path is so narrow and the quad is so entrenched in the ditch that we literally have to lift it up, spin it around, and put it back on the path facing the opposite direction before we can make our escape.

Thank goodness I ate that extra piece of pie.

With the Humiliation at the Church of Panagia behind us, we motor down the hill and park at our hotel so that we can explore the main town on Folegandros.

Chora, pronounced Hor-ah, teeters about 200 meters above sea level, the white-washed Cycladic buildings tumbling down sheer cliffs as narrow slate-paved alleys wind through a maze of shops and cafes, suddenly opening into squares filled with children playing and people having their morning coffee. No cars are allowed inside Chora, so it’s easy to wander through the labyrinth of buildings and enjoy the quiet streets beneath the shade of the trees. (Unless you are American, in which case, you'll probably try to take your Quad in there).







Massive bougainvillea are blooming in the late summer sun and they sprinkle random splashes of fuchsia against the white buildings and blue sky.

I feel like I am peeking through to a world that remains untouched by modern trappings and I want to be a part of it.

Chora is inviting us in. The town is charming, authentic, and delicate. Cats bathe themselves in the sun, women are chatting on the threshold of their little houses, young girls hang fresh linens out to dry, men are sitting cafes reading the newspapers while drinking coffee in the dappled early morning light, little boys play games in the square.







We realize that time flows slowly in Folegandros, as if people are still able to savor every moment of their day. Far from the hectic city life, I felt like I am submerged in a different time, and I feel light and happy.

This town is a quiet footstep that has been left behind to remind us how simple and sweet life can be.













Back on the quad, we head down the narrow two-lane road that runs the length of Folegandros. We see miles of terraced farms covered with an impossible network of hand built stone walls. There are endless goat paths leading across hills of silvery green sage and chamomile.



We see a local farmer riding his donkey down the small highway, his arms tanned dark by the sun. As he smiles and waves, his eyes are buried in wrinkles that tell stories of hard work and a full life.

We take the turn to Angali Beach. The steep, curvy trip takes nerves of steel, but we eventually reach the end of the road.

Angali is the closest beach to Chora and is considered by some to be one of the best beaches in Folegandros. The sand is golden and it is surrounded by steep, rocky hills. The surf is up and waves angrily pound the shore. A few tavernas with bright yellow chairs are scattered about.



We head for the stairs on the right side of the beach which we know will lead to a hiking path to nearby Agios Nikolaos beach. Golden and sandy, the beach is about a 15 minute walk along the exquisite coastline. It’s named for a small church that is built on top of a hill near the beach. There is also supposed to be a hilltop taverna with an expansive view above the beach.


I realize quickly that I am not properly attired for a hike. Expecting a leisurely stroll, I am wearing my cute sandals again. It is immediately evident that this is a proper HIKE.

The path is rocky and narrow, winding through dry terrain high above the ocean below. It is also very hot. I am in cute sandals and I have no water.

As we walk, I am pretty sure I see a tumbleweed blow by and I can hear that music from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly playing in my head. I’m starting to have second thoughts. I have no idea how far it is or what’s really even going to be there when we arrive.

But it is too late to turn back now. Matt has forged on ahead and by the time I catch up to him, I'll practically be there. I think.

We continue to climb and descend along the dusty path, my cute sandals slipping on the sharp volcanic stone. The 15 minute walk turns into 20 minutes.

20 minutes turns into 25 minutes.

We come to a small beach that I know isn’t THE beach. There are a few people scattered about, no doubt other innocents who started this trek and decided to abort before they died of dehydration or fell to their death by slipping off the loose stone and plunging into the ocean far below.

It’s now been about 30 minutes.

I’m getting hotter and I am thirsty. I am starting to sweat in my cute, beachy-flowy dress. This is not how it’s supposed to be. I am supposed to be gliding along the cliffs like a goddess in a Greek yogurt ad. Instead, my face is melting, my feet are dirty, and I think I might have pit stains.

I distract myself with the views, which are unbelievable.






We finally arrive at the hilltop taverna and see a sign pointing down the hill. We can almost see the beach below and just have to walk around the church and make one final rocky descent.




I am looking forward to a long swim in the cool, inviting water and some shade. Maybe the taverna has some chairs for rent. I’d pay 20 euro for an umbrella, a chair, and a cold bottle of water right about now. I am sweating like a fat guy in leather pants running a 5K.

As we walk over the rise and look down at the beach, my heart sinks a little. There are no chairs. No umbrellas.

No matter. We’ll throw our stuff down in the sand European-style (I have notice Europeans tend to lay in the sand even where there are extremely cheap, or even free, chairs to be had) and have a swim before heading back up to the taverna for some drinks and food.

Besides, who could be sad when faced with such an incredibly beautiful beach?

We finally reach the beach and I begin looking around for a scrap of shade. There are a few scattered bits of shade on the beach, but I can tell that what few there are have already been claimed and are consumed with the towels of beach goers who arrived earlier than us. There is no shade for newcomers, so I busy myself with setting up our things in a little spot on the end of the beach where we entered.

I take off my sweaty dress and Matt looks at me funny. He smiles and says, “Did that bikini come with a pocket or is your swimsuit on inside out?”

I look down. Dammit. I crouch in about 3 inches of space behind a shrub while he holds up a towel and get myself righted.

Finally ready, we slip off our shoes.

And the skin is immediately burned off our feet. I feel like those guys in Indiana Jones when they opened the Arc and their faces melted off. I am pretty sure that has just happened to my feet and if I look down, there will be nothing left but charred bones. I have never encountered sand so hot in my entire life. Not even at the volcano beach on Milos.

We run to the water and plunge in.

It’s only when we come up out of the water that we have a good look around us. Until now, we have been distracted by a search for non-existent shade, trying to fix the fact that I don’t know how to dress myself properly, and running from our scorching feet.

About 10 feet in front of us is a man in a very small motor boat. He is standing, but he is pumping his entire body up and down as he tries to discharge water with some sort of small hand operated pump. What catches our eye, however, is that he is completely naked.

Completely. Naked.

And he is fervently pumping, up, down, up, down. Bending at the waist, not the knees.

I quickly turn away, toward the beach and realize I am staring right at a woman who is lying spread eagle on the beach facing me and she is ….completely naked.


Having just seen a view that should only be reserved for one’s gynecologist, I slowly turn a circle and realize that pretty much everyone on the beach and in the water is completely naked.

Matt and Vicki are on a nude beach.

This gives The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly a whole new meaning.

Matt looks mortified. I am mortified. We don’t know where to look so we just stare at each other.

“I think I’m ready to go,” he says quietly.

“Don’t you at least want to swim for a while,” I plead, thinking of my sweaty dress and that hot hike back up the hill to the taverna.

That’s when “pump guy” starts pumping up and down again, his bits and pieces dangling and flopping awkwardly in the breeze.

“Never mind,” I say as we hurry out of the water.

We both agree that this has been an “experience,” but one that we don’t need to prolong any further. We gather our things and start up the hill.

We don’t look back.

The taverna is simple and neat, with tables scattered about under a roof, the sides open to the ocean. The views go on forever.



The proprietor brings us a small pitcher of wine and two little glasses.

We like the wine, but I needed a proper cocktail. I mean, I have walked at least 15 miles. Okay, it was more like .5 but I did it in cute sandals so, that’s pretty much the same as 15. Add to that the 4-Wheeler Humiliation at the Church of Panagia, the Hike Through the Desert of Fire, and the Eye Assault on Agios Nikolaus Beach….Wine be damned. I need something stronger.

We see Caipirinhas on the menu, so we order two and a grilled tuna salad. After waiting for about 30 minutes, we look around at the only other two patrons and realize that, like most places we have found in Greece, this taverna runs on GMT, “Greek Maybe Time.”

You get it when you get it.

The drinks arrive and they are….odd. For one thing, they are very tall. Caipirinhas are very short because they are nothing but limes, sugar, and cachaca. The drinks also have little green tidbits floating about.

I take a sip and laugh.

“It appears to be a bastardized caipirinha-mojito hybrid,” I tell Matt. “Not that bad really.”

Lunch is breezy and relaxed, and we are thankful that the restaurant doesn’t have a view of the beach below.



Having put it off as long as we can, it is time to hike back to the quad. The only thing worse than hiking on hot hilly cliffs with slippery rocks in cute sandals is hiking on hot hilly cliffs with slipper rocks in cute sandals when slightly tipsy.

Only Matt and I would think a drunken cliff hike was a good idea.





Somehow, we make it back intact.

Because Folegandros is only a few miles long, we drive all the way to the far end of the island, taking in all of the views.









It’s early afternoon when we arrive back at Anemomilos, so we hit the pool and spend the afternoon giggling over cocktails about our ill-fated beach trip.


Earlier in the day, we noticed a cute restaurant with a beautiful garden just outside our hotel. It’s about an hour before sunset and we had a light lunch, so we decide to walk over for some afternoon “mezes.”


Mezes are small dishes that are not part of a meal, but are eaten on their own, typically with wine or ouzo. Unlike an appetizer, which is to whet the appetite for the meal to come, mezes are simply designed to provide a vehicle for a social moment. Mezes are intended to be shared along with conversation, laughter, and a drink.

I like food. I like drink. I like laughter. I’m all about the mezes.





We walk over to Pounda and find a small table underneath a massive bougainvillea. Three kittens are sitting on a low rock wall next to us. This place just oozes charm. Every day I feel like I am on the set of some elaborate play; this place is too perfect to be real.

Pounda makes its own ceramics and our wine is brought to us in a beautiful ceramic jug along with two delicately painted cups.





We are given a small, complimentary bowl of olives and the owner proceeds to tell us that they are olives “of his own production.” He noticed some unharvested olive trees nearby and decided to make a small batch of marinated olives.

They are very good.

When Matt eats them in a nanosecond and then asks for another bowl, I see the little man stare in disbelief and realize we are, once again, being “those Americans.”

However, he kindly brings us another bowl, after which I slap Matt’s hand and tell him to appropriately SAVOR the little man’s special olives.

We order a local cheese plate and some grilled shrimp and spend a leisurely hour in the garden before sunset.







Sunset on these Greek islands, we have learned, is not a moment – it is an event. Every evening, at the same time, everyone begins chasing the sunset.

No matter where you are, everyone gathers on an outdoor terrace with a view of the sunset and a cocktail, and for good reason.

The sunsets are mesmerizing. They are romantic. They are epic.

We find that the balcony of our suite at Anemomilos has a perfect view of the sunset, so we grab drinks at the hotel bar and settle in for the magic moment when the sun dips into the sea and bathes the world in golden light.






After another sunset has come and gone in colorful splendor, we go in search of dinner.

If the island of Milos is renowned for its beautiful beaches, then Folegandros is known for its food. It is said to have some of the best food in the Cyclades. I consult my travel notes and see this: “The traditional "must eat" food on Folegandros is a kind of thick pasta called matsata, which you will find in most restaurants, and which is usually served with meat in red sauce. There is also a fair quantity of fried goat meat to be had.”

Really? Who puts thick pasta with red sauce in the same sentence with fried goat meat?

We head into Chora to find a restaurant where we can sample some matsata, hold the fried goat meat, please.

We choose restaurant Chic because it has the most beautiful little tables strewn about a courtyard filled with twinkling lights. The warm glow draws us in.


We pass on the matsata. Instead, we order tangy olive dip, fried cheese balls, savory chicken souvlaki, and tender roast pork. Of course they come with the ever-present french fries.






It’s been a very long day and if I look half as tired as Matt, I know it’s time to turn in.


Yeah, I look tired.


We only had one day, and we made the most of it.

Just as Milos stole our hearts, Folegandros has amazed us.

I can’t imagine how Santorini can possibly follow these two incredible little islands.

Posted by vicki_h 04:59 Archived in Greece Tagged greece santorini milos folegandros Comments (0)

My Big Fat Greek Vacation: Day 4

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





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

But first things first: breakfast cake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

We have made a good choice.




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








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

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

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

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







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

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

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

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





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

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

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






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

No matter. It’s tasty.

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






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



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






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

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





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

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








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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is not fabulous.

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

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

“Don’t ask,” I say.

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



And I bet it has really nice bathrooms, dammit.

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

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

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

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






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


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

My Big Fat Greek Vacation: Day 3


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

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




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

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


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





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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ve got to be kidding me.

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

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

Damn metric system.

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

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

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

Screw the treadmill. I head for the beach.

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

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


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

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

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

I feel like I could stay here forever.

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

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

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

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






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

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

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

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

That’s a definite “no.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

This situation demands immediate rectification.

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

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

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

Ah….life in Greece is hard.

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

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



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

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

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

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











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

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





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







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










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




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





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

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









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




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



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

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



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

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

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




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





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

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

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

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

“Ypovrichio,” she says.

We just look confused.

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Big Fat Greek Vacation: Day 2

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


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







So is the giant breakfast. Again.

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



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

The drive to Tsigrado Beach is jaw dropping.





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






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

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

It's not the answer he is looking for.

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

He sighs and grabs the rope.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

I don’t want to be those people.

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

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





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

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

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



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







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





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


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

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

“What is it?” he asks.

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

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

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

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

It’s time to chill, Greece style.



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

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





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







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

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

It’s an exquisite end to a decadent day.




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

My Big Fat Greek Vacation: Day 1




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

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


I like the way Greeks do breakfast.

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


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

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

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






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

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






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

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

It is breathtaking.

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





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

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

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

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






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

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


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




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

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

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

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

It is enchanting.







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

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

Higher than I am willing to walk.

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










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

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



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





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

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

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

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




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

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

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

Oh yay!

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






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

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

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



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

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

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






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

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

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

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

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








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





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

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

Oh no he didn't.

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is he drunk or crazy?” I whisper.

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

Great. Matt gets Georgianna and I get Norman Bates.


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

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

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




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

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


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

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



“Are you American?” he asks.

We nod.

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

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

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


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


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




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

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

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


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

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