Greek Island Hopping - Paros to Santorini

Trip Start Feb 04, 2011
Trip End Nov 04, 2011

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Flag of Greece  , Cyclades,
Friday, April 15, 2011

It was time to leave the beautiful island of Mykonos and head south to other Greek islands - and hopefully some warmer weather. I shouldn't complain as it's still only April and summer doesn't start until June, but it would be nice to not have to wear a jacket at night - or sometimes during the day. As my apartment was within metres of the port, it only took minutes to board the ferry for the short trip to Paros.

It's never good to compare places as each place has its own charm and its own personality, but after being to Mykonos it's really hard not to think back to that magical island. Paros is like a quieter Mykonos (and Mykonos was quiet when I was there!) so you can imagine how dead it was. The hotel I'd chosen was quite a hike from the port and through the town but now that I had my monster red suitcase and as long as there weren't any steep hills, I didn't mind the twenty minute walk. The main town was a little reminiscent of Mykonos as many Greek island towns are.

I stayed near the port and I know I'm going to be told "oh, you should have stayed in Naoussa on the other side of the island where all the action is" but believe me, when it's not summer there's really no action anywhere until the tourists come in June. After staying one night in a very nice and clean hotel it was time to set off for the highlight of the Greek Islands - Santorini! This time it was a bigger boat and a longer journey of about four hours and as I was feeling like a bit of comfort I upgraded to "business class" for an extra eight euros. It was worth it.

The boat went through quite a bit of turbulent weather and the waves were like being on a roller coaster. Up until now, and I've been on many boats, I'd never felt nauseous but this was getting quite rough. Fortunately I met a girl from Portugal (Isabella) and two guys from Brazil (Andre' and Marcelo) so we all spoke in Portuguese on the boat and agreed to meet up later that night in a restaurant in Santorini. Isabella was already familiar with the island whereas the two Brazilians and I were first timers to the island. We were all staying in different hotels on different sides of the island so we separated at the port.

A cautious word of advice to anyone who arrives in Santorini by boat. If you're afraid of heights you're going to hate the trip into town. The steep climb up the monstrous cliff is frightening and I'm lucky I was in a taxi and not a bus. The trip back to the port is even worse as it's all downhill and I clung to the car door with all my life as the driver sped around corners that were clearly the end of the earth. The view is to die for - but hopefully not literally to die for.

We all met up in a Greek restaurant that Isabella recommended and we ordered a bit of everything so the two Brazilians could try different things. We also started off with an aperitif which then turned into a few bottles of Greek red wine followed by some ouzo to finish it off. We were hammered! The owner of the restaurant was born in Australia and because of our immediate connection, the ouzo was on the house. After the meal we all tried to wobble back to our hotels. The two Brazilians took a taxi (very hammered) and I walked back with Isabella, followed by a pack of stray dogs that accompanied us back to the hotel. Even the stray dogs here are polite and when I asked one of the dogs how to get to the hotel, it actually took us there. I'm not kidding! My Greek is much better when I've been drinking, it seems.

The following morning we agreed to meet at 9am which was a bit ambitious, given that we'd left the restaurant at about 3am. As I predicted, the plan failed because I got lost in the town (the streets are like a labyrinth!) and none of us had adequate means of communicating. Andre' had his phone turned off and I'm too frightened to use mine overseas. After walking around the town I gave up. Their hotel was apparently several kilometres out of town so like many travel experiences, this was destined to be for one night only and I never saw them again. We all have each other's email addresses though, and we eventually got in contact with each other.

The island of Santorini, or Thira as it is otherwise known, is one of those "must see" places in the world. The scenery is a work of art and is the result of millions of years of volcanic activity. To add to its natural beauty, it is sprinkled with villages of white houses and churches, similar in style to Mykonos but much more recognisable, for this is the true Greek postcard. Even in low season, several cruise ships were circling the island and dropping off passengers to invade the souvenir shops and take photos of everything from a trail of donkeys to a passing cat. Someone even took a photo of me, thinking I was a local. Ha! Or maybe there was a cat behind me.

I became friends with a young couple from Rhodes who had just moved to Santorini and had opened a bar which they were regretting. They were both lamenting the fact that in Rhodes there were already far more tourists and it was warmer. I told them that it's only April and an island like Santorini hardly needs any extra advertising for tourists to come. They told me a few rather crass and racist jokes about Turks and Jews, and although they meant no harm by it, I gave them some useful advice as a Director of Marketing. Keep the jokes neutral. Even if I'm not Turkish and/or Jewish, I found the jokes offensive and I don't think that's a way to attract more customers. They were rather apologetic and I explained it to them in a way that wasn't aggressive so they thanked me for pointing it out.

I know there are still some issues between Greece and Turkey, but as a tourist, I don't need to be exposed to that sort of prejudice and so I told them, "the only thing that concerns me about the differences between Greece and Turkey is - who's going to win this year's Eurovision?" With that, we all laughed and the rest, as they say, is history. Ah, to hell with history. Events that occurred half a century ago? Eurovision is far easier to follow. Besides, my money's on Greece winning this year. Opa!
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