I’d been more or less alone for the better part of five months by the time I got to Greece, and since the last month in Thailand had been so trying, I was relieved to reunite with a handful of friends from the US. Here are a few of my favorite moments with each of them.
I was so excited to see Susan that I didn’t even notice someone was pickpocketing me on the train. That’s how interesting she is! She knows loads about architecture and art… you really couldn’t pick a better friend to take to Athens. Errr, unless you can’t pay attention to your surroundings when she’s talking. She also fronted me some money so I didn’t starve while I sorted out my credit cards and whatnot after my wallet was pilfered. She’s my gyro. Hehehe.
I loved that during our bizarre 36 hours in Athens, when we really didn’t know what we were doing or where we were staying, she was so mellow. It’s hard to find a non-perpetual traveler so willing to wing it. She became my “winging it” wingwoman, cracking up with me at the police station when they demanded to know, “Who told you to come here?” Um, well, we got robbed and then came directly to the police station, so… common sense told us. We cracked up while singing the SNL classic, “I threw it on the ground” at the Acropolis, and she listened attentively to my rattling on about the Chipmunk Adventure and how it inspired me to visit Athens.
When we got to Mykonos, I was worn out and a tiny bit jet-lagged, but Susan was energetic and down to see as much of Mykonos as we could squeeze in. On the first day, we walked and walked and walked around the cute little town, eating our weight in tzatziki at little seaside cafes and eventually stumbling on the magnificent Katerina’s restaurant in Little Venice on the very first night. (More to come on Katerina’s later. YUM.) We ate and ate and ate and ate, mostly feta cheese-based dishes, for the duration of her visit.
I love that Susan is about a million times friendlier to strangers than I am, so she helped me meet the folks that ended up becoming a little Greek family during my three weeks on island. (Like the clown above.) I think I also have her to thank (and blame – haha!) for the English contingent who became part of my Mykonos story, because she’s the one who first chatted them up at our hotel. (Pretty sure that tale has to wait for the tell-all book and subsequent interview with Barbara Walters. It’s seriously juicy.)
I particularly love that Susan insisted we get sun – regardless of the fact that it was freeeeezing. Well, it was probably only freezing to me. We arrived in Mykonos in early May, and the infamous northern winds were still rattling the shutters all over the island. After a month in SE Asia, I was accustomed to 100 degrees & humid, but Susan, having come from a blizzardy NYC winter, was happy to lounge by the pool in a windy 60 degrees. We were a sight to see for the hotel staff – me in jeans & a blanket and Susan in a swimsuit lounging on the deck. But my was it ever the perfect introduction to Mykonos!
Anita & Courtney
Anita & her pal Courtney met me in Mykonos after I’d already been there a while, so they reaped the benefits of all the *professional* networking I’d done with Susan… at Katerina’s, Skandinavian Bar and all the other local restaurants, cafes and dance party palaces. I made so many friends around town that I began to feel like a local. Cheers of “Angelena!” erupted every time I entered any of my favorite haunts, so it’s no wonder A.) I never wanted to leave and B.) Courtney, Anita & I had a blast.
One of my favorite nights with the gals was the night we went out “just for a bit,” dressed in boring jeans and bland beige tops, and somehow found ourselves tearing up the dance floor into the wee hours. We were indignant that the non-English speaking DJ had never heard of Willow Smith and didn’t know what I was talking about when I kept screaming, “I WHIP MY HAIR BACK AND FORTH! Do you understand? I whip my hair BACK AND FORTH.” Then I demonstrated.
No luck. We did however get to hear Party Rock Anthem and a few other summer favorites about 300 times. Check out my summer playlist here.
There’s nothing more comforting after being really lonely and sick in Thailand than meeting up with old friends and giggling about the good old days back at school. Anita & I have known each other for ages, and though we can’t pinpoint exactly when we came into one another’s lives, we have had some darn good times over the years. Courtney & her friend Josh were rapt with attention at some of our funniest tales, particularly the ones about Greek life (not Greece Greek – college Greek!) and the absurdities of sorority rush. We re-enacted the “boobs-to-back” stance and shuffle one night in the gal’s hotel room and sang a few classic rush songs, including of course, “Alpha, beta, gamma, delta, epsilon, zeta, eta….” Naturally. When in Greece…
Beach time! It was finally warm enough to lounge on the beach without a blanket, so we hit up the lovely Platis Yialis a few times to catch some rays. Heart-to-heart chats are better on the beach, don’t you think?
A few years ago after a particularly difficult business trip (ok, devastating – someone died!), the infamous La La La Lauren met me in The Bahamas for Memorial Day. We jumped on the bed while singing ABBA songs and giggled (well, she did) our way through the Atlantis waterpark. After such a marvelous vacation, I was surprised at just how much arm-twisting it took to convince her to pop over to Greece (ok, it’s a LONG trip), but I think she ended up being pretty happy with the results! And I was certainly happy she came. Aside from just having the luxury of chatting non-stop with one of my best friends, she came bearing gifts! Twizzlers and pretzel M&Ms and nail polish and dresses! She also let me wear her clothes during her trip, so I finally have some pictures of me in other outfits… yay.
I’d been on island for more than two weeks by the time she arrived, so I played tour guide, dragging her to my favorite restaurants, hot-spots, snack joints and gyro shops. And we did a bit of shopping…
Like the gals who came before her, we spent a significant amount of time lazing on the beach, catching up, eating Greek food and dancing it off for 4-6 hours per night. We met some incredibly interesting characters along the way…
We stayed in some spectacular hotels in Mykonos & Santorini. We rode donkeys up a cliff. Swam in a rusty volcanic hot spring. Galavanted on a sailboat. Planked in exotic locations. Rode a funicular (after defining funicular). Went to a beach that looked like Mars. Napped in a ferry terminal after our boat was delayed seven agonizing hours. I don’t even have the time to recount all the adventures (and misadventures!) we had… but they were so good, and I’m so glad she came!
Once Lauren left, I tootled around Santorini by myself for a week, but found it a bit boring alone, so I was happy to pop over to neighboring Ios to celebrate Matt’s big birthday. Matt & I met last summer at Travel Blog Exchange in NYC; you can check out his blog here. Matt is an expert in budget travel and backpacking, so he convinced me to stay in a hostel, which I hadn’t done since Laos several weeks before. Hostels just haven’t been great to me historically, but I will say Francesco’s on Ios was a.o.k. (And yes, I had a private room. Dorms slay me.)
Happy birthday, Nomadic Matt!
While Ios has some beautiful, not-too-packed beaches for daytime fun, it’s really most known for its raucous all night party scene and dozens of themed bars (and not nearly enough karaoke!). Call me old and boring, but I didn’t much care for it. I really felt too old for the entire island and most of its after-hours shenanigans… but more about that side of Ios later.
When not getting stepped on or elbowed in the face by drunk teenagers, we either vegged at Far Out Beach Club or rented 4-wheelers with Nicole & Anthony from Western Oz. Matt & I got stuck with the crappy 4-wheeler, so while Ant & Nic zipped past us up the hill, our vehicle stalled and we rolled backward. Scary!!! Nevertheless, we eventually made it across the island to Homer’s tomb, through a herd of goats and down to one of the loveliest beaches I saw during my whole six weeks in Greece.
My very last visitor in Greece was the friend I’ve known the longest out of the whole bunch – Jorel! We met when I was 14 and he was 13, and he lived across the street from the 7th grade love of my life. That guy is ancient history of course, but Jorel and I have remained friends through the years, attending UF at the same time and eventually becoming roommates in NYC. I stuck around a little while longer in Greece and based my flight out of Athens in order to meet up with his big fat Greek family… and I’m glad I did!
This time when I got to Athens, I was AWARE of my surroundings, watching for pickpockets like a hawk. Jorel’s family wasn’t so lucky – a few were victimized on the metro before I even arrived. I can’t even count how many family members were actually present, and I certainly can’t remember everyone’s names, but we had so much fun staying up late, planning how we might crash the austerity protests with Gator signs and walking around for hours looking for the best places to eat. Did I mention I love Greek food & Greek people?!
For bedtime, I squeezed into a room with Jorel’s little sister (who I still think of as 5 years old) & her pal and had girl talk for two nights. During the day, we went back to the Plaka, rode around on the metro and tried to catch pickpocketers in the act. Then the whole family hugged me goodbye and sent me off to Istanbul…
Now you know why I was both exhausted and refreshed after Greece. WHEW.