Well here we are, about six weeks away from our return to Canada. Six weeks left of our adventure here posted to Europe. It certainly hasn’t been what we thought it would be when we left Canada, but we have definitely tried to make the best of it.
And in that vein, last week was the last school break Sophie will have here. It was one week off school. The next time she’s off school, it will be summer holidays and that’s when we get packed and take off for Ottawa. So we wanted to make the best of this last break. We actually let Sophie choose where to go – she chose Greece! (I mean, it wasn’t like she had to twist our arms!). We thought it was the perfect holiday – a few days in Athens and among history and ruins and seeing all of that, and then sail off to an island and enjoy beaches, swimming, sun, and relaxing for a few days.
We flew in to Athens. It was a long day of travel, the first time in Europe that we took connecting flights – but so be it. It wasn’t made any easier by the chaos of spring/summer 2022 airport madness everywhere – staff shortages made for long lineups and waits. We woke up around 0245 local time and finally made it to Athens and our hotel around 1800h. Whew! We immediately set out to find some good dinner around our hotel and it was not a hard ask!
The most important part was to get some Greek beer and a LOT of tzatziki, ASAP!:
We had a lovely dinner and explored the immediate neighbourhood then hit the hay, after such a long day of travel.
When we woke up, we knew we wanted to get out as early as we could manage, before the heat descended on us. Unfortunately, we were somewhat bound by the breakfast hours of our hotel. Luckily, they had a wonderful breakfast to serve us that made us want to stay – in all my time in Greece, I could never get enough of the true Greek yogurt, fruit, and honey.
On day one we went off to the Agora, the second-most famous ancient site in Athens.
Agora means ‘market’ and so this large area of ruins was literally the public marketplace of ancient times. We walked along the ancient streets, and saw ruins of shrines, aquaducts, alters, and more. All while being under the imposing shadow of the Acropolis on the hill above us.
The ambient temperature was about 35°C but it was a very dry heat and if you were anywhere shaded, it felt tolerable. As soon as you stepped into the sun, it felt like Hades. The sun was literally scorching. So after only about an hour looking around at Agora- because we forgot water (rookie mistake!)- we left and headed to a cafe. We then had a grand time perusing some shops and the city flea market. Wow, there were some stunning antiques there that made me drool. But they were quoting us very high tourist prices (way more than they were worth) and we didn’t have room in our luggage anyway.
When we travel, we always like an afternoon siesta. We always have but now we need it more especially with my limited walking capabilities. I need that break to give me enough energy to go out and do more again. However on this trip, we altered it more and actually used the siesta for its original intended purpose – to stay inside during the heat of the afternoon. We came back after being out in the morning and stayed in right until 1800h. In other cities we may have been ready to leave earlier, more at 1630h, but because of the heat, we waited until the sun dropped further. Then we went out and explored more, found a place for dinner, and ended up staying out way later than we would have otherwise (til like 2200h).
We explored the Plaka neighbourhood of Athens which is just pedestrian lanes of shops and restaurants.
After dinner, while ambling, we came across something my aunt really wanted me to try, and I figured, “while in Athens”! I got a fish pedicure!
Then we figured that was enough adventure for the night, and made our way back to the hotel.
On our second day, we wanted to head to the Acropolis as early as we could before the heat got excruciating, as there isn’t much shade up there on the hill! We took a cab as far up as we could go then walked some. Then there is a spot where everyone continues on walking up the hill, but where disabled guests can veer off (you have to know what you’re looking for, as it’s actually the exit!) and it leads towards an elevator! There is a beautiful brand new glass elevator that goes up the side of the cliff to the Acropolis that is very strictly for disabled guests (you can’t use it just because you have a baby pram). You end up getting an amazing view of Athens as you go up!
I met Sophie and Eric at the top.
The top of the Acropolis was pretty impressive. However, you could definitely tell how and where the British explorers simply took whatever they wanted and left.
So when we were done up there, we went down to the (air conditioned) Acropolis museum. There, they had a lot of original relics, but also a lot of the story of what everything would look like today had the English not stolen whatever they wanted and taken it to Britain.
Here’s an example of what above the entrance to the Acropolis would have looked like originally, and mostly still today had it not be pillaged by the English:
The next day, I needed a break from the heat and excessive walking. Sophie had really wanted to go to Delphi, so we compromised and decided for me to stay behind and take it easy and for Eric and Sophie to book a bus day-tour to Delphi. The tour they were on was very inaccessible so if I had gone we would have ended up getting a much more expensive, probably private, tour. They enjoyed themselves a lot and got to see the ancient ‘centre of the world’.
While they toured Delphi, I went back to the flea market and let myself get a few little non-Greek vintage antiques. I had fun haggling with the vendors (cutting the ‘tourist price’ down by 80%) and while the pieces aren’t Greek, they’ll be able to sit in my new house and I’ll always look at them and think of my time in an Athenian flea market and how I got them. I figured they were better than any cheap tourist novelty that I could buy in any shop! I also spent my time having a nice long drink and lunch in a lane and people watching, it was great. Oh, I also went to a laundromat and made sure we had clean knickers for the week ahead!
Now we were done our Athenian adventure and ready to move on – to the Cyclades islands!!! We were going to the island of Naxos. You’ve probably heard of the more popular Greek islands Santorini, Mykokos, Corfu, Crete, and Rhodes, but we specifically chose a lesser (but just as beautiful) island because it would have less tourists and be quieter.
We took a Blue Star ferry there. It’s a 5-hour trip and when booking, Eric noticed that it was only €10 per person to upgrade from the economy seats to the business class lounge. Well, for a 5-hour trip, sure! This wasn’t first-class like on an airplane where everything is included and free, but it’s just access to a big, comfortable lounge at the front of the ship with panoramic views. There were also kind waiters willing to run around and get what we ordered, but we needed to pay for whatever we wanted.
Naxos was absolutely stunning. Not only was it physically cooler than Athens, it was just such a relief to be out of the dusty, dirty city and in this oasis, beautiful resort island.
We spent our days on Naxos relaxing. We didn’t stay right in the main town on the island, but just about 10 minutes out of it, on the more calm side of the island (less huge waves, better swimming). Eric did all this research and booking, and he did absolutely amazing. Our hotel had its own private section of beach with lounge chairs and umbrellas and it was guaranteed that every single guest would have a chair and umbrella at all times – you never had to worry about rushing down to the beach early in the morning to snag a spot. They also provided us with large, cozy beach towels.
In this paradise, it was hard to have a rough moment or take a bad picture.
People all over the island rent motor scooters (Vespa-types) and ATVs. Half a block from our hotel there was a motor-rental (they did cars and everything else). Eric had considered getting a car to explore the island if we wanted to come with him but Sophie and I just wanted to stay on the beach, we’d had enough ruins! He couldn’t let himself relax that long. So he went and rented a 4-wheeler ATV and headed out! He went all over the island with that thing and saw some ancient ruins as well as some more recent ones (a few decades ago they started to build a hotel and then abandoned it).
One evening, we went into the main town on Naxos (Chora) for dinner and went through the adorable little lanes.
And after dinner, Eric and Sophie went to climb up to the Apollo temple, which people like to get a photo of at sunset- but Sophie gave up quickly when she started getting sprayed by the huge waves on the breakwater. So she came back to meet me while Eric continued up to it. (I was drinking a glass of wine at a cafe and watching the view of the sunset and temple from ground level).
On our last full day there, we had the day booked to do a snorkeling catamaran tour, but the wind had been picking up progressively throughout the week, and by this day the waves were quite big and the tour had to be cancelled. On our side of the island though, it was still relatively calm, so since we were getting a ton of money back from the tour cancellation, we splurged €20 on some cheap tourist-shop snorkels and had fun exploring the little reef near our beach and seeing the fishies around us. The water was just so perfectly clear, it was so easy to do.
When we took the ferry back to Athens, due to the winds and waves it was a lot more choppy than our sailing over to Naxos! Two out of the three of us required some Gravol to get through the 5-hour sailing!
Then when we got back to Athens, we went to a small aparthotel Eric booked. We had originally booked flights for very early the next day and we were just going to go to an airport hotel, but KLM had since changed our flights to 12 hours later and now we had all day to waste in Athens. So we got a hotel in town with a rooftop pool.
Unfortunately, we were just vacationed-out by then. We were beat! All we wanted to do was lay in bed and watch Netflix and eat Dominoes and go home! Athens seemed too hot and too dusty after the paradise that was Naxos.
We did nothing that night and the next morning we needed to check out of our room by 11. We didn’t need to be at the airport until 3pm, so we decided to leave our bags with the front desk and go to the nearby National Archaeological Museum – because we knew it was air conditioned and I could get a wheelchair there (knowing I had to navigate 2 airports later that day, I didn’t want to wear-out by walking around all day).
Here, there was everything from ancient Greece to ancient Egypt and Rome. Sophie and I actually thought we’d be really bored at it and just went for something to do, but we were somewhat impressed! It was a cool museum.
However, the time came to leave. Off to the airport, but of course then our flight had been delayed, almost 2 hours – which was exactly the time of the layover we had in Amsterdam. We were told on check-in that we likely won’t make our next flight so we had no idea what to expect.
Turns out we DID make our flight, only because our second flight was running about half an hour late. I had Accessibility Services booked and they ran me right there in a wheelchair. No waiting anywhere! However, our bag did not make the second flight. It’s now seven days later and still no bag. I called KLM two days ago and it had been located but is still sitting in Amsterdam.
Any bets on when we’ll get it? Hopefully by the time we need to move to Ottawa!
Greece was a wonderful way to end our European adventures. We’ll definitely remember all these trips and holidays and excursions we’ve had. Thank you everyone for letting me share with you and for feigning interest in our escapades!