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From the outside, San Giorgio looks like one of Greece’s ubiquitous whitewashed homes. Inside, traditional Greek textiles and locally made furniture adorn the 33 unfussy rooms. Most feature rough-hewn wooden dressers, large circular jute rugs, and beds canopied with mosquito netting. Some have terraces with views of the Aegean Sea. Guests can relax during the day in cocoonlike hanging swings near the pool or take a 10-minute walk to the popular beaches Paradise and Paranga. In the evenings, it’s not uncommon for DJs such as Bob Sinclar or David Guetta to make guest appearances in the hotel’s open-air lounge. Doubles from $156. 30/22-8902-7474. This appeared in the October 2013 issue. Photo courtesy of San Giorgio
If you want to get away from the crowds in Santorini, try Megalochori - one of the prettiest, quietest little villages on the island. The town's location further inland, away from the caldera cliffs, removes it from the typical tourist itinerary. A beautiful bell-tower archway frames the entrance as you drive into town, which is easily accessible by a short car, taxi or bus ride from any part of Santorini. Megalochori features a maze of extremely narrow cobblestone streets passing by hundreds of traditional white-washed houses and churches with accents of bright blue. Let yourself get lost. At the the center of Megalochori is a sleepy town square, with two tavernas and bougainvillea-covered patios. Sit in the welcome shade and order a vibrantly-hued Santorini tomato salad, grilled souvlaki and sesame & honey-coated feta. Try Restaurant Raki (above) in the town square, where the locals go. (Live Greek music at night.) And since Megalochori is the heart of Santorini's wine industry, be sure to visit a winery, where you can meet the local vintners and sample their goods. If you are looking for a very quiet village and a low-key, relaxing day, this is a wonderful place to visit. Sometimes a really lazy day is just what the doctor ordered. www.santorini.com/villages/megalochorivillage.htm
Thanks to doing research on AFAR.com, I learned that one could sea kayak around the island of Milos. I signed up with Rod from Sea Kayak Milos and had a fantastic time. My fellow kayakers and I paddled through bright blue water, in and out of tight caves and learned about the various geological highlights on this volcanic island. It was stunning! Lunch on a private beach rounded out the day before we paddled our way back to dry land.
Of course I could not post highlights of Athens and not post a photo of the majestic Parthenon. I prefer this shot over one I took of the front simply because you don't see so much of the scaffolding from restoration work. It's a shame that this building was in beautiful condition until 1687, when a bombardment set off an ammo dump the Turks left in there, blowing up a part of the building. I do wonder if they'll fully restore things in my lifetime.
While sitting outside at a café in Plaka, the historical neighborhood in Athens, a brightly colored wall across the way—filled with bottles—caught my eye. Ouzo was something I wanted to try, as it is for many first-time visitors to Greece, but stumbling upon Brettos was definitely a surprise treat. This is the oldest distillery in Athens, where both locals and travelers stop in to drink homemade ouzo, brandy, and liqueurs. We sat at the bar and drank ouzo, then moved on to sampling liqueurs in a variety of flavors. I will always remember the banana liqueur as being my favorite that day. There were so many colorful liqueurs, more than 36 flavors waiting to come down off the wall and each poured in a glass to try. It was hard to stop at only a few to leave and continue on our way to the Acropolis. Enjoying some drinks at the Brettos distillery and bar was not a planned stop on our trip. But should I ever return to Athens a second time, it definitely will be, and is a memorable spot to have your own first glass of ouzo.
Oia is a picturesque town on the northern part of Santorini that overlooks the famous caldera where some speculate the lost city of Atlantis stood before sinking into the sea. It is the perfect place to feel on top of the world and watch the sun set into the endless seas surrounded by M.C. Escher-like architecture.
For one of the best views and best meals in Santorini, try Red Bicycle. Located at the tip of Oia on the northern part of the island, the restaurant is housed in a 19th-century Santorini mansion with a 180-degree view of the famed sunset and the volcano caldera. It was heavenly. Soft island breezes on the open-air terrace. The best food I had in Greece (fresh, local Mediterranean dishes with Greek/Santorini influences). A warm hostess who was incredibly kind to our two children. We ate here twice during our weeklong stay - I definitely hope to go back.
Meteora means "suspended in the air" in Greek. The town of Meteora, about a 5-hour drive north of Athens in Thessaly, Greece, is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site - six Greek Orthodox monasteries built on enormous rock pinnacles that rise up to 1,300 feet from the valley floor. Hermits settled in this area in the 11th century, but the official monasteries were not built until the 14th century, during a time of political instability. At their peak, 24 monasteries provided a place of safety, refuge and quiet contemplation until the 17th century. Six of the monasteries still operate today. Several of the monasteries are accessible to tourists on a road connecting the rock towers. Byzantine frescoes and architecture are a sight to see, and the views are breathtaking into the valley. Meteora reminds me of the American southwest, like Moab, with huge rock cliff walls and sandstone pinnacles, but with houses built on the tops. A natural and man-made marvel. Base yourself in the town of Kalabaka, at the base of the rock pyramids, where there are plenty of hotels and al fresco restaurants with a view. After the quiet contemplation of the monasteries, you can also try rock climbing, hiking and rafting. Fun Fact - the monastery of Holy Trinity was featured in the James Bond movie, For Your Eyes Only.
People gathered at Oia an hour before sunset to find a perfect spot for watching the most romantic moment on the island. After the sun finally sets, you will hear a round of applause from different directions around you, just like after a good show.
You can't beat this - a delicious, freshly caught seafood dinner on the edge of the Aegean Sea. Sunset Taverna is located in Ammoudi, at the base of the cliffs in Oia, Santorini - dramatic scenery for simple, rustic, delicious food. From the castle in Oia, enjoy a leisurely, winding walk down to the marina (or take a car down the coastal road). Feast on lobster spaghetti, fresh grilled seafood, baked feta, stuffed eggplant, Fisherman's Salad. Hike back up to Oia under the clear, starry night.
At the northern edge of Oia lies a pool lounge overlooking the Aegean Sea – a peaceful place to stay while cruise crowds storm the town in the afternoon. The pool is open to the public and makes money off the purchase of snacks and drinks from guests who linger to take a refreshing dip or soak in the spectacular views. To find this hidden treasure, walk the northern path along Oia's caldera, past the far windmill until the walkway ends. It can also be accessed by car from the next parking lot north of the the bus station.
The famous Little Venice in Mykonos attracts many people to gather here at sundown. The purple sky, the orange sun, and the blue water all meet together to mimic the colorful paints of the buildings. This is also a good spot for food and drink while watching the sun set.
When in Athens, venture away from the typical sites and explore the neighborhood of Anafiotika. It's like a tiny quiet village was planted in the middle of a major metropolis. A relic of the old days, the area now is a maze of small decorative walkways and cozy places to eat and drink. The Fisherman's Tavern had amazing food and was a welcome diversion from the typical gyros and souvlaki you'll find in the Plaka. This shot is everything I'd ever want in a backyard patio. My fiance and I hung a large print of it in our kitchen just to take us away every now and then.
Maybe the most ubiquitous dish in the capital city, but the window on the corner of Monastiraki and Metropoulos is where you go if you want the best souvlaki Athens has to offer.
The belly button of the world lies eighty miles northwest of Athens, where the southern slope of Mount Parnassus, cut deeply by cascades feeding the River Pleistos, drops precipitously into the Gulf of Corinth. High above the ravine in a cleft between the Phaedriades, or “Shining Rocks,” a natural amphitheater was shaped by wind, erosion, and tectonic turbulence over the intersection of two underground faults. This is the omphalos—the spot believed by ancient Greeks to be Gaia’s own navel. Homer called it “Pytho,” because it was here that the Earth Mother gave birth to a female serpent. “Why is it the serpent is always a woman?” The goddess/serpent appears in everyone’s mythology, I remind KB as we approach six massive columns re-erected where the western pediment of Apollo’s temple once stood. “Yeah,” she replies, kicking a loose a chunk of limestone across the weathered foundation, “along with the ‘hero’ who kills her.” KB’s sinewy, suntanned legs straddle one of the pedestals at the entrance to the sekos—Apollo’s inner sanctum—and her belly button taunts me between the waistband of low-slung hiking shorts and the hem of her tank top. “Both Apollo and his twin sister, Artemis, whacked the serpent goddess,” I remind her. “Naturally, the locals erected a temple here to commemorate his bravery. It was named after a cult that worshiped the sun god in the form of a dolphin—Delphinios—Delphi for short.” “How do you remember all this stuff?” KB asks.
Kinsterna Hotel & Spa is in an 800-year-old mansion. Guestrooms feature such details as original fireplaces and Byzantine domes. The hammamlike spa was inspired by the natural springs that flow through the property. From $234. 30/273-206-6300. Photo courtesy of Kinsterna Hotel. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
Crystal clear waters, remote access, and cliff diving. Seitan Limania is a spot known only to locals and the few U.S. military that transit the nearby naval flight line. The view is absolutely gorgeous. This is a once-in-a-lifetime beach. Access is a little remote and requires a steep decline down a rocky trail, so wear shoes and avoid bringing anyone that can't manage a little mountain climbing. The classic tourist town of Chania is nearby as well. The actual location of the beach is 6km due east of the position the map, at the end of a switchback road (the map doesn't accept the exact location when I pin it).
Situated on a seaside promontory, Amanzo’e opens for its first full season in March. The spa draws upon Hippocrates’s holistic health formula of exercise, massage, and bathing in the sea. From $1,423. 30/275-477-2888. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
In the Roman Agora by the Tower of the Winds stands this ancient marketplace that isn't much more than a lovely piece of history worth grabbing a photo of as you pass by.
Anafiotika is best described as a tiny village planted in the middle of a major city. I still think anyone visiting Athens should make an effort to venture away from the usual sights and explore this hidden gem. You'll find scenic walkways such as this one around every turn, and some wonderful eateries tucked away from the barrage of tourists.
Traveling almost 2 hours by car from Heraklion or by plane from all over the country, here comes Chania. This is the 2nd largest city in Crete. I've been there many times but the best place I have ever visited is the place called "Balos" which has one of the most beautiful beaches in the whole world. You may need more than 2 hours to get there from the center of the city by car or busses, but trust me, it's worth it. The most clear & blue water you have ever seen. Relaxing under the sun & drinking fresh coctails on the beach could be the ideal plan for someone who needs some rest from the stressful daily routine. Enjoy & rest.
Summer nights in Oia, Santorini are like a dream - bright, fiery sunsets melt into warm, enveloping dusk. Settle in for drinks and dinner at one of the many outdoor restaurants lining the volcano caldera side of the island. Slowly, as you sip your drink in the cool breeze, glimmering lights begin to flicker on and the muted sounds of clinking glasses and murmured conversation drift by. If you are lucky, an elegant ship will glide across the caldera - truly a sight to see. My family and I spent a week in Santorini. Favorite finds include: - Atrina Traditional Houses for a beautiful rooms with 180-degree views - Red Bicycle restaurant in Oia for world-class cuisine and a sweeping terrace - Atlantis Books, an underground "cave" bookstore - Red Beach for dramatic, cliffside scenery - Megalochori for a quiet, off-the-beaten path village Paradise on earth. Ready to go back, anytime!
This porch, containing six female statues as columns, is the most eye-catching feature of the Erechtheum. Definitely a must-see if you get up top on the Acropolis.
Peloponnesians have appreciated the health benefits of their Mediterranean diet (high in veggies, fruits, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, and fish) for centuries. These days, the fish soup at Thalassinos (shown) in the seaside town of Marathopoli, as well as the fresh fish (especially the red mullet) and wild greens at Diamantis, in the port town of Gerakas, prove that healthy can also be delicious. Thalassinos: Dimotiko Diamerisma, Marathopolis, Marathopoli, Municipality Trifylias, Prefecture Messinias, 30/276-306-1208. Diamantis: Limani Geraka, Gerakas, Lakonia, 30/273-202-3849.
The 40,000-square-foot Anazoe Spa, shared between the Romanos and the Westin hotels in the Costa Navarino resort, created its oil-based remedies from the prescriptions archaeologists discovered inscribed in clay in the nearby ruins of Nestor’s palace. Services incorporate Anazoe’s anti-inflammatory massage oil, made from sweet almonds, and olives grown on the property. Costa Navarino, 30/272-309-7000. Image courtesy of Anazoe Spa. This appeared in the January/February 2013 issue.
The noisy, smelly, chaos of Athens Central Market is an experience no foodie (or photographer) should miss. The colours, shapes and patterns are a compositional dream, but the market is not for the squeamish. You can find every conceivable creature from the sea on sale here. The floor is wet and the air smells salty. In the next building, animal parts you didn't even know were edible are hanging from hooks or stacked in baskets - Sheep's head anyone? Around the exterior of the market you can find spices, fresh fruit and vegetables. When you tire of the crowds, just grab a cup of strong black Greek coffee and watch the bustle from a safe distance.
Mention 'Greek Islands' and one instinctively thinks of Santorini or Crete. But there are literally thousands of other islands scattered between Greece, Turkey and North Africa. The smaller ones like Poros (above) are just as charming. I don't know what it is but I just love these scenes of blue skies, blue sea and white buildings with terracotta roofs. Though it may look crowded, I still get a sense of peacefulness and serenity. Life here moves just that little bit slower :)
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