Walking off the boat in Patras that morning was like walking into a heat wave - it was about 38 degrees and very humid so that even just walking 100 yards to the train station left us dripping with sweat - lovely! Luckily the train for Athens left about 5 mins after we got there, but to make matters worse it was not air conditioned, making our two hours on it rather unpleasant. But, we must admit, the sunshine was lovely and the views of the Mediterranean along the coast were just stunning. We had to change trains somewhere and we had no idea if we were even heading in the right direction - a young lady was trying to help direct us, but we were unsure if even she knew where she was going. By some miracle we did manage to arrive at Athens station, where we were met by Spiros, a great friend of Claire's dad's whom Claire has known for 16 years. He used to live in the same apartment building as Claire and her dad when they lived in England many years ago. Anyways, this was Claire's third visit at Spiros' place in Athens, and his hospitality was as fabulous as ever. Man, Roger/Dad has great friends!
That evening we settled into Spiros' apartment and chatted until nearly three in the morning. It had cooled down to about 35 degrees by then....You see in Greece it is normal to have dinner about midnight and head to bed around 3 or 4 because it is (slightly) cooler in the evenings.
You can see the Acropolis from Spiros' apartment, but we decided to head over to see it in person, so the next day we took the metro to Monosteraki and climbed up to the Acropolis and took some photos. Unfortunately it is undergoing extensive rebuilding renovations, so most of it was covered by scaffolding, but it was still a marvel to look at. You can't help but wonder how the hell they got all those huge rocks up there so many years ago. It was baking hot, so we didn't linger, but headed over to Spiros' warehouse (he is a supplier of tourist goods in various Greek locations).
That night we met up with Spiros' gf Dimitra and headed out for dinner with some other of their friends at 10 o'clock. We ate dinner at about 1am, then made it to bed about three. It was a fabulous place though, right on the beach and loads of plates of food were ordered and we just helped ourselves sort of buffet style to the various Greek dishes. Most of them were very good! It was so nice to have some locals to order the good stuff
The next day we just sort of hung out, bought our boat tickets for the islands, packed up some things to take with us - man it was nice to have such light backpacks, as we were able to leave quite a lot of stuff behind at Spiros' for the week. He was kind enough to lend us all sorts of beachy things like flippers, goggles, a beach umbrella, a snorkel, etc. We were ready for the beach. Again we were up late chatting and packing, managed four hours of sleep, then headed out for the 730am boat to Milos. It was Friday the 13th....
We arrived about 8 hours later, after an extremely windy voyage and found a shuttle bus to the camping ground. We set up camp and bussed into town to find food and some wheels! The food mission was minorly successful because Milos is a small island with no major supermarkets, and any market that is open seemed to run opposite of our schedule. We did manage to find a sweet set of wheels though, a dune-buggy! We then filled the tank for €7 (which lasted over 2 full days) and buggied up to a small village at the north of the island down steep back roads only wide enough for one vehicle. Buggy number one turned out to be quite the lemon. It had a major exhaust leak and the drive chain to one of the wheels was loose so it didn't like to turn one direction. We returned it later that evening for a new buggy. Other than that, Friday 13 went rather smoothly.
The next morning we explored our campsite which had a gorgeous pool and restaurant that overlooked the bay.
We also found that there was a family of kittens living there who definitely knew how to milk the campers!
We decided to explore the North side of the island first because the wind in the summer blows N-S, so we wanted to get the windy part over with first. Our first destination was Sarakiniko, which was a beach of completely white soft rock. There was a small inlet which sheltered us from the waves, but because the rock was so soft the water here was a lovely color but was rather murky.
View of the harbor town on the way to Sarakiniko
Once Claire had her fix of sunbathing we headed up to Pollonia, which is the northern tip of the island for some lunch.
Our final destination of the day was a beach called Plathiena. When we arrived we found a virtually deserted beach with umbrellas and loungers with no one to collect any money. Perfect!
And home in time for the sunset
Day two was exploration of the southern beaches of the island. We started out with a large beach full of Greeks playing a game which seemed to be the next best thing, where the essentially playing catch with oversized pingpong rackets and a tennis ball. This beach turned out to be rather miserable as it was not sheltered so the wind whipped sand around everywhere and there were quite a few people.
It wasn't long before we headed to the next set of beaches, Firaplaka and Tsigrado. Firaplaka was beautiful but very busy so we took some photos from a distance and went to check out Tsigrado.
You drive down this small dirt road to skinny point of dirt surrounded by sharp cliffs. We weren't sure if we were in the right location but there were a few cars parked here so we couldn't go any further, so we decided to get out and take a look. Turns out, this beach is down 40ft in the small cove. The only way down was a rope down a very skinny crevice. This turned out be very important because there were very few people there and were all of similar age. The cliffs protected us from wind and the water was crystal clear. We stayed here for many hours on the beach and in the water!
To top off a wonderful day, the exhaust pipe on our dune-buggy blow out of the engine so we had a noisy ride back to the campsite. There we picked up some earplugs and headed into town to get it fixed.
Day 3 of beaches involved a trip to Kleftiko which we were told was only accessible by boat. Not knowing that this wasn't a beach at all, but a beautiful cove, we were the only ones on board with a pack full of beach stuff. We arrived at Kleftiko and were told in Greek to disembark. A little confused we watched the rest of the boat jump off the boat and swim/snorkel around. We soon did the same.
Arriving back at the small port we found that our battery was dead. A few attempts at roll starting, and some charades, we eventually got someone to come and replace the battery. Seeing that 90% of the cars on the island are rentals, no one caries jumper cables.
After that was settled we headed back to Tsigrado to relax a little before our boat to Santorini at 12:30am.
We had to get the buggy back by 7pm so after the battery fiasco, we only had a few hours left on the beach. Once we gave the buggy back we chilled on a bench in the harbor until our boat arrived.
We arrived in Santorini at 4am with no accommodation booked. Surprisingly the tourist information centre was open as most Greek islands survive off of tourism. However, the man behind the desk was little help so we decided to sleep in the waiting room until a few more place opened up. We were then going to contact a friend of Spiros on the island for his recommendation on where to stay. A few hours of extremely uncomfortable sleep left us groggy. it was a little after 6am and there was one restaurant open where we sat and had a coffee. They didn't seem to mind us hanging about waiting there as there market seemed to be to gauge sleepy tourist early in the morning when nothing else was open. After our coffee, Claire's pencil was full of lead and she took off and found us an accommodation at another travel agent. A few minutes later a shuttle van arrived and we made our way up the caldera via a 900 vertical ft set of switch-backs.
At 7:30 in the morning the island looked beautiful and peaceful, but by the time we settled into our room and decided to take the bus into the main town of Fira, there were cars/scooters/ATV's everywhere! It was a bit of a shock coming from Milos, where everything was much slower and you could drive from one end to the other and only see about 15 cars. Here was a constant stream of vehicles, where 90% of them were tourist! We got to town thinking we were going to look for another buggy, but to our surprise there were very few. The vehicle of choice seemed to be underpowered ATV's. A bit discouraged we walked down the main street to find a million vehicle rental shops and a million pushy salesmen offering us special prices. Almost ready to give up we decided to walk a little further were we found a newer buggy for a better price than Milos... Cash only of course. A little intimidated at first, Taylor managed to get into the swing of things very quickly.
By the time we got home and got organized it was too late to make it to the other end of the island where the famous Santorini sunsets are viewed. On our way home we did see a sign of 'unique sunset' not far from our hotel, so we headed there and were pleasantly surprised. Reclined chairs, nice music, and a cold beverage on the edge of the caldera made for a good evening.
The next day was supposed to be beach day. We went to the black beach for a while but found that it was just too hot. The sand radiated heat from below while the sun baked us from the top. It was an interesting feeling to walk a few feet into the water and be on a giant smooth rock though. This beach was also very long so it was too windy to put up our umbrella.
Next stop red beach! This beach was more sheltered and more beautiful, but also more populated, seeing that it was the only beach on the island sheltered from the wind. We stayed there for a while where Claire red on the rocks and Taylor snorkeled.
We headed back to the hotel early in order to make it to Oia (ee-ah) for the sunset. After about an hour of driving, we got to Oia with little time to spare. Oia is the most picturesque village, but also very expensive! Anyways, this place was PACKED with people for the sunset. Not a nook or cranny was available for late arrivers. We watched the sunset from overtop of crowed and decided to return to the first sunset spot the next day.
Day 3 consisted of heading back to Fira to browsing all the little shops and meeting up with Spiros's friend Alxendros. While we were there, we were fortunate enough to see 3 cruise ships pull up and off load a few 1000 people! The harbor at Fira is almost exclusively used for cruise ships so they could either take a gondola up the caldera, walk 600+ steps or take a donkey!
That evening we relaxed around our pool and went to our favorite sunset spot again, trying to mentally prepare ourselves for our journey the next afternoon.
We left the harbor at 4pm on the boat where it was 46 degrees! The view from the boat up at Santorini was supposed to be spectacular but we didn't see it on our way in because it was still dark out!
The above two pictures are of Fira, where you can see the walking trail up the Caldera the donkeys take!
So long islands, time to make our way back to reality.
Eight hours later (12:30am) we arrived in Athens just in time for dinner! Greek style! Spiros arranged another fabulous Greek meal, and at the wee hours of the morning we headed to bed in order to get up early to pack for our flight back to the soggy UK.
So long Athens... so long nice weather...
Operation Greece, very successful.
It should be noted that it was +40C when we left 14C and raining when we arrived in London.