Greece – Paros and Santorini
We have no directions to get to our villa in Paros as there are NO STREET ADDRESSES here. We are instructed to meet the house caretaker at the airport, an Armenian transplant, who holds up a sign for us. Not really necessary since the airport arrival section is about the size of an apartment living room with a conveyor belt shorter than a sofa. You have just enough time to grab the luggage before it flops off the end. DD arranged for her own rental car which is ready and waiting delivered by two young Armenian guys in cool sunglasses. They let her know the car has NO GAS in it though, and she needs to take a small detour before continuing to the villa. Our car does not arrive, and we figure out my Guy arranged to pick it up at the Port, an hour away, not the AIRport.
We ask the two young Armenian guys to take us to the Port. For a fee, they say. Our Armenian guy steps in and what sounds like an angry exchange takes place. He says in broken English shaking his head, You Not Go with them. There is a different kind of law here I suspect. Our car comes rolling up. Out hops the car rental agent who says the car agency across the street called and told him a couple of Americans were waiting at the airport for their car. So he just drove it here. Nice. Very Nice.
We are to follow our Armenian Guy to the house since we have no address. We explain that DD needs to stop for gas. He nods understanding. I ride with DD for support. My Guy finds himself behind the wheel of a stick shift which he hasn’t driven in 15 years. He stalls coming out of the parking lot. Oh no, this is not going to be good, DD says. Armenian Guy takes off zipping along and does not take the detour for gas which is in the opposite direction. We don’t stop because we have NO ADDRESS and are afraid of losing him. Surely he will stop at another station farther down the road. This is not the case, and we begin to COAST down the hills as far as we can to save gas. FINALLY we arrive…at the other end of the island and then up a steep hill to the villa. Are we going to make it? Are we going to make it? Whew! We make it literally on FUMES. We ask him for the closest gas station. OH, PETROL, he says, down the street. Oh, right, PETROL. Lost in translation.
Darling Daughter takes a much needed nap. She is basically not sleeping and only able to get cat naps here and there. My Guy and I go and get a quart of gas just to get her to the gas station. We borrow a container and promise to return it. Of course we have no funnel, use a chop stick to hold open the tank and end up spilling the gas down the side of the car. We are lucky to get enough in the tank to start the car. We return the container with gas in it because we could not tilt it high enough to get it all out. The gas station owners laugh, shake their heads and talk rapidly in Greek. Who would return a container with expensive petrol in it? This island is so small, I think they probably already know about the rental car mix-up. Our reputation grows.
Speaking of talking Greek, we try to learn a little bit of the language wherever we are visiting. When they say, It’s All Greek To Me, believe them. The letters you see do not match the sounds you make. We managed to figure out Thank You, Ef-haree’-sto, and cheers, Yamas, which is a shortened version of To Your Health. We even bastardize those, My Guy shouting YAMAS with American Gusto. Luckily for us, most everything is in Greek and English thanks to the Olympic Games of 2004.
Very detailed instructions await us at the villa with steps on how to turn the power off and on at the fuse box to heat the SMALL water tanks above the showers. You only heat the water when you are going to use it. So you get in to these tiny shower boxes, use a hand-held, which you turn off to suds up and on to rinse. Bend over and you push open the shower door. There is also a polite request to feed
the stray cats along with designated bowls. Paros is to cats what Athens is to dogs. DD is a cat person and soaks up the much needed TLC of the felines. She goes about naming each one; I think there are 15 total who come to eat and one with kittens. Horace never leaves the patio lounging in his chair waiting for DD to awaken each morning. This is just the comfort she needs. Well that and alcohol.
Here’s the tricky part. At night as soon as we turn on the lights, the electricity goes out leaving us IN THE DARK with no air conditioning. Back to the fuse box. Flip this on, turn this off. Nothing. We call our Armenian Guy who comes over with LIGHT BULBS. This goes on for several nights. We go to bed early or read with iphone or iPad lights. No TV. We decide to call the owner, who we think might be able to talk in Greek to the caretaker, to help us figure this out. Bad idea. Armenian Guy goes toe to toe with My Guy finger in his chest saying Why You Call; I FIX. As it turned out, as soon as the SPRINKLERS came on at night, it shorted out the rest of the house. They make up.
We can see the ocean from here just down the hill and across the street. We quickly establish a favorite Golden Beach place to hang out where the owner takes the fee for the beach chairs, takes our drink and food orders and then goes back to the kitchen and makes the food. Her husband makes the drinks, sometimes. It’s all open air. She steps around to the side of the building for some mint and other herbs for our beverages and salads. Mint and lemon find their way into most foods here. Natural, simple ingredients slow-cooked in multiple steps for tasty, tender meals. People stop us and ask if we are related to the owners and wonder how they are doing. We answer what questions we can LIKE WE KNOW them. We feel like their ambassadors and want to represent them well. We may not be off to a good start.
Heading to the beach filled part of our days and sight-seeing the rest. The first challenge was learning how to let out the clutch without
hitting the stone wall. Oops, only hit the wall once. Maybe twice. There are no speed limits, and cars zip along the tiny roads. I’m unnerved by the pictures along the side of the road of those who died in car accidents. Of course I do the mom thing with Darling Daughter and WORRY on the days she goes out on her own. Shees. Inland Paros is rolling and steep with tiny Orthodox Chapels crowning the hills. These are maintained by individual families. The major towns are mostly on the water with Parikia the big port town and hub for ferries. You feel transported back in time with small colorful fishing boats dotting the harbors, and fisherman bringing the fresh
catch of the day. Octupus is big here. We watch a fisherman tie a string around one and tap it back and forth against the rocks either to tenderize or hasten death, we figure. Octupi hang to dry outside of a local restaurant like clothes on a line. My Guy is the first to brave trying this delicacy. It’s sweet like a scallop and a little denser in texture. He had the best in Mykonos, another island and a rich and
famous tourist destination a couple of hours away by ferry. Sorry to say we missed the NUDE beach there. Not. We did see some awesome yachts, one purportedly leased or owned by Ryan Seacrest. The buildings on the islands are white-washed limestone with blue tops, a reflection of the Aegean Sea, a beautiful, clear cobalt blue unlike anything I have ever seen.
We never do get the timing down for eating and can’t seem to figure out which meal is the large meal since they are all LARGE. Anna’s is the place to eat in town we are told. We are the first to arrive and given our choice of seating. Off to the roof-top garden terrace we go. The waiter laughs that we seated ourselves already. You have to come down and choose your foods FIRST he says. We go back down and look in the case of foods and begin selecting. Anna herself greets us with a basket full of fresh fish. We heard her Moussaka, an eggplant, potato, ground meat dish, is the best around. He recommends three or four appetizers before our main meal. Meatballs with Ouzo is the one I remember. No, no you must choose more he says. Enough? MORE. We ROLLED off the rooftop.
He has a college degree in economics and cannot find professional work as is the case for many youth in Greece. He says he is so grateful Anna gave him a job for the summer. He tells us about the freshness of the food and how women come down from the hills with herbs and tomatoes for Anna’s cooking. He talks about Greeks starting their own small businesses to survive with no governmental systems in place to encourage or help fledgling start-ups. This needs to change he says. He then gives us a complementary dessert and an after dinner drink. I find this in Europe. If you praise the meal, there is such pride in it that you are awarded with a small dessert and/or drink. There is no need for big portions since you get so many courses. A tiny taste of something sweet at the end is all you need. Actually any time you have a drink anywhere you are presented with a tray of olives, nuts and cheeses. With each drink!! We had to decline after the first round. At that rate I don’t know how they make any money! Of course they are probably not used to Americans GULPing down their drinks and appetizers. Greeks linger an hour over an iced coffee, a drink of choice here. That and Ouzo.
My Guy does the driving since I did not get an international driver’s license. He stresses getting us up and down the hills. We decide to
go to Anti-Paros, a small island off the western coast, where there is a famous cave. You cross to the island on a car ferry. You BACK the car onto the ferry. DD and I hold our breath and say silent prayers, Don’t Stall, Don’t Stall, Don’t Stall. BIG CHEER! He makes it. A long walk UP to the cave and then warnings for people with heart conditions to be cautious. My Guys says, Oh you’ll be fine. I get to the bottom easily enough and then start back up. I REALLY REALLY should not have done this. SLOWLY step by step I make my way laboring at times. Darling Daughter hoofs it up and waits at the top taking numerous pictures along the way. Later she sees ORBS on many of the photos. Some kind of SPECIAL HANGOUT.
We continue on from Paros to Santorini. Darling Daughter goes home as planned and has to spend one night alone in Athens and then get herself to the airport. Of course I am a nervous wreck. Watching her board the plane makes me cry. Her too. A lot of complicated feelings all rolled into one big lump in my throat. Knowing her heart is really broken, and she is returning to reality with all that healing ahead of her works its way into my whole body. The time we spent together was the longest since my divorce and move to Greenville. Our hearts connected again and now retreat back into their protective shells. There goes my baby again.
I transform over night. The Alien in me leaves and My Guy gets the return of the person he does know. He gets ME for the last three days of the trip.
We take a ferry over to Santorini. The ocean liner is luxurious and glides across the most beautiful sea I have ever seen. And Santorini is truly the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Our taxi driver thinks he’s in a Grand Prix race passing cars on hairpin curves along the EDGE of the Cauldron as we travel higher and higher. Don’t look down. We stay in Oia (EEa) all the way at the tippy top of the island. Our room is in what was once a cave in the side of the cauldron and opens like an infinity pool to the sea. I feel like I am in a photo shoot for Traveler Magazine.
Apparently Oia is a wedding destination for Asians. I feels like we are at the prom. Asian women in colorful flowing dresses with big floppy hats like from the 70s sashay down the stone walkway, suddenly STOP, then STRIKE A POSE for a picture. Camera people run ahead to get the shot. Sometimes they are in real wedding dresses. We are pushed out of the way. It is like being on a movie set. Camera, Lights, Action. Everyone on the set, quiet please!
And then there’s the spectacular Oia sunset where people, like lemmings, rush every night hanging onto the edge of a cliff to watch the
gigantic orb descend below the horizon.
Goodnight from Greenville,
Dyanne is an inner wisdom coach, psychotherapist, writer, mind-body healer, Integrative Yoga Therapy teacher, certified “Journal-to-the SELF” instructor and creator of https://www.holywhollyholey.comhelping women heal and step into their power. She is the author of the ebook, “Holey Path to Holy Living: A Women’s Path to Healing and Freeing Sacred Feminine Power,” which can be found on Amazon and on her websitehttps://www.amazon.com/Holey-Path-Holy-Living-Feminine-ebook/dp/B01MUI0OOJ/ref=sr_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1486652110&sr=1-13&keywords=holy+path