Always get off in Ios.
Our holiday in Greece just cannot be put into words, but I will try. The Greek people were inviting and so very generous, the food was possibly from another planet, and pictures simply do not do the scenery justice. We started off the trip in Athens where we stayed with Luci Fontini (she is a greek resident with an Air bnb, I highly, highly recommend her place to stay). This post is going to be a hard one to write, but I will try my best, and let the photographs do a lot of the talking. We arrived in Athens and after putting our bags down, we went straight to Mount Lycabettus which has stunning views of the city.
We walked around the city all day and night trying to get our bearings straight, and I got a few more shots of the city.
I need to skip ahead in the trip to Ios because Ios was a colossal mistake on my end that now has such a HUGE place in my heart.
So we set off on the ferry intending to go to Santorini, which is approximately eight hours from Athens by boat. Matt and I were exhausted from the time change and travels, and the boat ride kind of lulled us both to sleep. When I woke up, I saw that the time read 13:15, and since I struggle with numbers I figured that had to be somewhere near three o'clock (not even close) and that Santorini had to be the next stop. They made an announcement over the loudspeaker that the next stop was Ios, which sounds like Oia, which was where we were going. So we hurried down to the loading dock to disembark, and took note that VERY few people were getting off at this last stop. We proceeded to make fun of the people not getting off the boat judging that they must be the ones confused (of course we weren't the ones confused) and very confidently walked off the boat onto the docks of Ios. Obviously our directions to our Santorini Air bnb wouldn't work very well SINCE WE WERE ON THE WRONG ISLAND (dramatic irony), so we sat at the bus station for the next bus to Oia which would never come since we were not in Santorini. Mind you, Matt and I hadn't caught on to this yet. A very kind local man drove up next to me in his pick up and asked if I wanted a ride to Chora, which to me sounded like Thira (are we noting a pattern yet?...I'M DEAF) and I gladly accepted thinking this will save time and euro. As we began the ascent towards Chora, this amazing local struck up some conversation-his English was pretty good-asking us where we were from, what brought us here, etc. He asked us where we were staying and Matt replied "Oia", and judging by the man's non verbals I knew something was up. He said "Oia?! You are in IOS! Oia is not here! You are in Ios!" And for some reason our brains were still half asleep, so Matt asked, "How do we get to Oia?" and the local said "You need boat! Oia is different island! You want Santorini, not Ios!" Oh.
So the man drove us back down to the port so we could find someone that would be able to tell us when the next ferry would head out. Turns out, there is only one ferry a day in Ios, and we were on it. So we decided to make the most of our 24 hours in Ios and explore the island.
We went to a local family owned taverna for Meze which is basically their lunch or "snack" there. The owner (who I called Stavros for the remainder of the trip) treated us with some of the most amazing hospitality I've ever experienced. His restaurant was appropriately called "Meze Meze" and if you are ever in Ios you MUST go there. (You also MUST go to Ios.) His family, Matt and I were the only people in the restaurant at the time, so he spent some time talking to us and explaining the menu. We asked him to bring us out whatever he liked to cook, and he took that to heart. First he brought us out the most delicious red wine I've ever had in my life and continued to fill our jug whenever we were nearing empty. Wine is HUGE on the islands, and most restaurants make their own and serve it out of a wooden barrel (no joke). Then he brought us fresh baked pita, fish roe salad, and the most beautiful, vibrant Greek salad I've ever seen. Following this, he brought out an entire pot of pasta he got from Napoli with a red sauce made from the island tomatoes, olive oil, and shrimp caught on the island, followed by more wine, and dessert olives that are made with honey also harvested on the island. In Greece, and much of Europe, meals last about three hours. When I was done, I had eaten enough to feed a family of six. Greeks take such pride in entertaining and feeding others. Stavros seemed genuinely happy with our enthusiasm for his cooking. Every time we finished a plate and praised his cooking, he would smile, nod, go back in the kitchen for about 15 minutes, and then come back out with another dish with which he would state "You try, it is very nice. This is on the house."
After lunch, we rented a car and drove the entire length of the island. The village, Chora, is very much so a village with cobblestone streets and amazing patisseries. There are also the iconic white churches with blue roofs throughout all of the islands, but each island had its own take on the classic architecture.
There are also beautiful beaches throughout the island. Locals say the beaches come alive during the summer, and water sports is a huge part of this island adventure. Like I said, words cannot do justice to our stay in Ios, but I plan on making many more visits in the future. There are too many people, places and things to talk about in a single blog post, but just take my word-Ios is truly heaven on earth.
I'm sure you're wondering if we ever made it to Santorini, and the answer is, we sure did.
Santorini was such a different island from Ios, but so so awesome. We stayed with an old Greek woman who we called our yia yia by the end of the trip. She made us a traditional Greek breakfast every morning, and brought it out to us on her deck so we could take in this view.
We walked all over Oia and made friends with the "dogs of the village".
At first sight, every Greek island is bursting with stray dogs. But, on closer review, you will notice that almost every dog has a collar and they don't act like stray dogs. They all have owners, but ownership means something very different here. Everyone is kind of responsible for everything. No one locks their doors at night, stores keep all of their merchandise on the street, and dogs are free to roam anywhere they please. There are also communal bowls of dog food throughout the island so that the dogs are well fed. It is SUCH an interesting culture.
And of course, there are the sunsets.
I left a part of my heart in Santorini, too. I guess I'll have to go back to get it.
Next was Paros. Paros is an old fisherman's port which has, you guessed it, amazing sea food.
The tavernas in Paros are all along the port which just adds to the romanticism of the fisherman's port feel of the island.
The final island we visited was Antiparos. Antiparos is an island full of artists and a very quaint village. Fun fact: Tom Hanks lives on the island many months out of the year and oftentimes dines with the locals.
On the ferry ride over we met an Antiparos local named Alan. He was from England, but had lived in Antiparos for 25 years. He offered to show us around the island. The first thing he pointed us to were the beautiful, scenic beaches.
It was a little chilly to go in, but I can only imagine how nice this water must feel in the summer.
After we walked along the beaches, we explored the little village. Again, although the islands have their similarities, Antiparos looked vastly different from the other islands we visited, but with a charm all its own.
We were so sad to leave the islands, but we had a few more days in Athens so we did what everyone should do in Athens-stuffed our faces full of gyros and visited Monastiraki--Athens flea market. The bazaar was such a cool experience, tons of people selling hand made jewelry and different traditional Greek products. Monastiraki was so lively and vibrant with tons of Greek people shopping, eating, and just hanging out.
It was such a great way to close our trip. If there is anywhere you should try to get just once in your life, you have got to get to Greece.