Arriving into Athens, we met with Tom’s brothers, Olly and Louis, and Olly’s mate Dean. It had been two and a half months since we last saw them and it was awesome to be reunited – in Greece of all places.
In our hotel rooftop bar, with the grandiose Acropolis as our backdrop, we shared stories on all that had passed in those couple of months. We had one short night in Athens before sailing off to Mykonos early the next morning.
To be sure we wouldn’t miss our 6am departure, Athens decided to wake us up super early at 4am – with a 5.2 magnitude earthquake! I woke to the bed shaking and thought Tom was having some sort of nightmare when I realised the walls were actually shaking. It gave us both a bit of a fright, but we were all thankfully safe.
Being mid-June, Mykonos was alive but not yet bombarded with tourists and students on summer break. The first thing we did after checking into our hotel was go find gyros in the town centre. How I’ve missed gyros! I have searched far and wide in Australia to find a true replicate of this sweet, sweet Greek speciality of pita bread filled with pork or chicken, tomato, onion, tzatziki and chips. I have not found anything that comes even close. And at €2 or €3 a pop it just couldn’t get any better.
We returned to the town later that evening for dinner at a traditional tavern and cocktails at a glamorous bar, before heading to Little Venice for a drink and dance near the water.
Our hotel was about a ten minute walk away, but I wouldn’t say it was an easy walk. The roads are extremely narrow and their ‘footpath’ was about the length of a bottle of wine with only a painted white line to divide it. We often had to stop and press ourselves against the walls to let vehicles pass. It was sad to hear from a local that in summer there are many fatal road accidents involving tourists and quad bikes in particular.
The next day, after relaxing by the hotel pool, we were off to Paradise Beach. As soon as we walked in we spotted half-naked girls, all with fabulous bootys, dancing on podiums. Then came the MC with his elephant trunk G-string.
I realised I had too many clothes on in my short yellow dress with cut out back when everyone else was in bathers or even less. Louis realised this too, and it wasn’t long before he stripped down to his jocks, even taking a swim in them for good measure.
The atmosphere at Paradise Beach was electric. Everyone, from all different nations and sexual orientation, was in full party mode. We had an awesome time dancing the night away.
The next day we nursed our aching heads on sunbeds by Platis Gialos beach. It was an oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the town. Restaurants lined the white sand and the water was a soothing, sparkling aqua capable of washing away any hangover.
While Mykonos was a party island full of liberties, Santorini was one of romance. Both were equally as touristy. We stayed in a different hotel to the boys in Firostefani, about a 10 minute walk from the main town of Fira.
Checking into our hotel, we were met with wonderfully gregarious staff who upgraded our room. We hadn’t even told them we were newly engaged, although we mentioned that as we thanked them.
Getting to our room involved copious amounts of steep steps, and we marvelled at the porter who expertly carried BOTH of our suitcases (20kgs each, one on his shoulder) in the dry heat.
When we entered our room, I squealed with amazement. The sun was shining through the wide open window on whitewashed walls and minimalist, sophisticated decor. But more than that, from the window as well as the private balcony, stunning views over the caldera completely took our breath away.
I could just stay like this forever
It was just after midday that we took in these views and I didn’t think it could get any more beautiful. But it did. In the late afternoon sun, the azure water turned into glistening liquid gold and a slight haze had settled over the horizon. Spectacular!
After taking a walk along the cliff-side scenic path, we stopped to pick up gyros and a bottle of French sparkling to celebrate our upgrade and take full advantage of our private terrace. Then it was time for a dip in the hotel pool – which was exactly what we needed to escape the searing heat.
Our sunbeds by the pool turned out to be the best seats in the house for a rooftop wedding. There were at least two weddings a day in our area alone. Love was definitely in the air – everywhere we looked around. But could it be too much?
Later that evening we met the boys for dinner. The sun was going down as we sat at a cliff-side restaurant with yet another amazing view. The sunsets in Santorini are marvellous – the red sun colouring the sky a rosy haze.
After a delicious seafood dinner (not one bad meal on the Greek Isles!), we headed to Koo, one of Fira’s nightclubs. It had a great alfresco area, but the music was quite slow. When we were inside, I turned around to see the bartender light up a cigarette behind the bar while she was working. Next thing, the DJ was also lighting up. No smoking laws here.
The next day, Tom and I visited the wine museum to do a tour and of course, taste some of Santorini’s finest. We were surprised that Santorini produced its own wine due to the harsh weather conditions, but they adapted to this by cleverly coiling the vines into a wreath-like structure. This protects the grapes from the heat and strong winds – leaving us to enjoy a good drop.
The sweet wine, Vinsanto is the most famous of the Santorini wines. Its name derives from ‘vino’ and ‘Santorini’.
What I was most looking forward to was sailing around the caldera. We booked a day cruise and when I saw the white catamaran pull up to the port, I could barely contain my excitement.
We hopped on with about 10 other people and sailed first to the hot springs. Laying on top of the boat with Santorini white wine in hand, the sun on our faces and the salty sea wind in our hair was lush.
Next stop was the white beach, where we anchored a few metres off shore. Tom and I both dived off the top of the boat, hitting the refreshing, albeit super salty water. It was so much fun swimming and snorkelling in the open water.
After enjoying a barbeque lunch on the boat, we were off to the red beach. Anchoring metres offshore, who should we see, but the boys on the sand. We jumped into the water and swam to shore to say a quick hello.
Sailing back to our pick up point on the island, Tom and I got too comfortable laying on the boat and fell asleep. Luckily we didn’t get sunburnt! Although, I think I did enjoy too much sun and wine because for the rest of the night, the whole world was swaying, like I never got off the boat.
Naxos is the most laid back of the Greek islands I’ve visited. With straw-thatched restaurants and bars right on the beach and reggae tunes in the air, it has a certain Caribbean feel to it. And we loved it.
The charming town isn’t nearly as touristy as the other islands, and the nearby port is lined with restaurants and bars that twinkle when the sun goes down. Our first night in Naxos we enjoyed traditional Greek fair and friendly hospitality in one of the restaurants overlooking the town square.
Our hotel had a large pool area complete with bar. Unashamedly, this is where we spent most of our time. Having an excellent bar tender who looked after us helped. Her name was Dora and she had a great, sarcastic sense of humour.
Dora took us for a night out on the town, showing us the different bars Naxos had to offer. Because the season was only really just beginning, there was plenty of room to move around. Dancing and laughing the night away with our new friend, we didn’t want it to end.
But as they say, all good things must come to an end. At least we farewelled the Greek Isles in style.
Back in Athens after a long ferry ride, we made sure we got one last Greek meal into our stomachs. We ventured into the Plaka – a charming area bursting with restaurants and market stalls. Ancient ruins are also scattered around it and it is, in my opinion, the nicer part of Athens, especially at night.
And with that, our Greek adventures came to an end. It was time to trade in flip flops in the sand and sun for jackets and scarves in the concrete jungle that is London.