After Cyprus we flew to Athens, Greece. We gave ourselves three days to see the highlights in the city and it was plenty of time. The Acropolis takes center stage and contains the most impressive of the ruins. You can buy a pass which grants you access into all the ruins in Athens, or buy a pass for just the Acropolis. Neither S or I are big history buffs so we opted to do only the Acropolis. Even if you do not pay to enter the other ruins you can still catch a pretty good glimpse of them from their gates.
Situated along your walk to the Acropolis you will find Areopagus Hill. You have to climb up a few steps and gingerly cross over some rocks to get a view of Athens. It was super windy, to the point of making me feel unstable on my feet! I saw other people struggling to stand as well, so it wasn’t just my personal lack of balance.
Experiencing the Acropolis in person is a must. Even if you are like me and forgot most of what you learned about Greek history and mythology in school, you can still appreciate the magnitude of the ruins. I have never been so willing to throw myself into throngs of tourists.
It’s just as breathtaking seeing it at a distance in the evening.
Athens is a special city to walk around because almost anywhere you find yourself you can look in the direction of the Acropolis and see it perched like a beacon.
S studied abroad in Athens for a few months while he was in college, although he has little memory of his trip. We went on a witch hunt to find the apartment he lived in without success but did manage to find the location his classes were held.
While walking through one of the neighborhoods looking for his old apartment we noticed a park without an obvious entrance. Until someone did this…
We didn’t hesitate to copy his move. It paid off sneaking into this unidentified park (later I figured out it is called hill Ardittos) because it led us to a really good view overlooking the old Olympic stadium.
Three days in Athens was the perfect amount of time for an introduction and tour of the main attractions. From Athens we boarded a ferry to Paros Island, Greece.
Visiting a Greek island has always been high on my list. Initially I wanted to visit Santorini or Mykonos, mostly because those are the two I have heard the most about. After doing some research, S and I decided to choose a less touristy island. I was slightly disappointed and worried I wouldn’t see picturesque white buildings contrasted with blue ocean water. My worries were in vain!
The ferry to Paros took four hours, and I surprisingly didn’t feel an ounce of seasickness. The Blue Star ferries are huge and a great option if you get motion sickness. The ferries have restaurants, lots of areas to lounge, and even beds you can choose to pay for if you have a longer journey.
Once we arrived to the port in Paros I told S to pinch me. At first glance I was struck by its simplicity and beauty. I have always romanticized what it would be like to visit a Greek island and it exceeded my expectations.
We arrived to the island right after high season, meaning a lot of businesses were closed for the winter. We didn’t mind as plenty restaurants and shops were still open, and it felt like we had the place to ourselves.
We stayed in Parikia which is near the port. It is a quaint beach town with cute restaurants and shops.
Every street we walked and corner we turned presented a storybook image.
Parikia and Naousa seem to be the most popular destinations for accommodations on Paros Island. We drove to Naousa twice and found it to have upscale restaurants and more hotels than the other towns. It seemed less laid back than the other towns and villages.
We stopped by Moraitis Winery (just outside of Naousa) and spent an afternoon wine tasting. Their white wines were lovely!
A word on cats in Greece. They are a major nuisance and very persistent. You can’t really get away from them, especially if you want to dine outside. The cats jump on the tables, on the chairs, and even on you. We had a third wheel during our tasting and he would not leave no matter what we did. Interestingly enough Greek people are not bothered by the cats, and we often saw locals feeding large groups of them.
In the center of the island is Lefkes, a small village full of idyllic homes.
Initially we drove to Marpissa with a particular restaurant in mind but like a lot of other businesses, it was closed for winter. As we were heading out of the town we saw signs for a monastery. St. Antonios Monastery sits high above the town, on a cliff, at the end of a winding and rocky road. The drive was frightening and steep, and at many points we almost turned around. We just about made it to the very top but had to stop before the last stretch, as the road was essentially a bed of jutting rocks. We parked our car along the cliff and walked the rest of the way. Once we reached the monastery we realized we discovered (and almost missed) the best view overlooking the island.
Renting a car was a last minute idea and definitely the right decision. We covered most of the island in the week we were there, and it is easy to do so because it is so small.
After visiting the other parts of the island we were ultimately glad we chose to stay in Parikia. We rented an Airbnb which was on a local family’s property. They own a cafe as well, Parea Cafe, which plays live music on Friday nights during off season. Our Airbnb host is the main singer, and the cafe gets packed with locals. We were lucky to be there on a Friday, during off season. We enjoyed the music and dancing, and had the opportunity to talk with the family who ran the cafe about their lives and culture. The daughter of the owners had recently become engaged, and mentioned she was having a “small” wedding, only 200 people. I found that hilarious, expecting her to say 50 people. I also learned she is the only midwife on the island, and delivers babies in emergency situations. Women typically go to Athens weeks before their due date in order to give birth in a major hospital. She has an immense responsibility yet her disposition toward it all is very calm and relaxed.
The video below is a snapshot of the evening. At one point we saw people throwing napkins in lieu of plates, which is of course much easier to clean up.
If you’re planning or contemplating a Greek vacation, don’t overlook Paros!
That is all of my Greece overload. Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving with your loved ones! S and I are having our dinner in Dubai but will be missing our families a lot this year.