Saturday, August 26, 2006

Let's stay in Greece, this year...

To the surprise of many (including ourselves) our summer vacation this year did not involve any trip abroad Greece. Partly because of our decision to leave in July instead of our customary August and partly because we didn’t have in mind any one particular place that we really wanted to go to, we finally decided to stay in Greece (as a Ministry of Tourism’s slogan for internal tourists says).
Thinking about it we thought that whichever place would have …the honour to host us should have the following qualities: small, quiet, new for us, easily and fast accessible. A few places came to mind including Leros in the Dodecanese; however we finally opted for Paxos, in the Ionian Sea, not far from Corfu.
Getting there was half the fun: we first went by plane to Corfu and spent the night there. Corfu is an interesting hybrid of cultures: we dined in an (excellent) Italian restaurant (‘La Famiglia’), wandered around the small streets (a la Napoli) of the town and marveled at the Chinese exhibits of the former British Governor’s mansion turned museum of eastern cultures.
From Corfu we flew to Paxos but our departure point was not an airport! No, Sir, it was a …marina, base of operations for the Airsealines. Yes, we used a seaplane! An interesting experience, flying low and having a nice view of the islands and the sea below and finally landing, (oops, is it …sea-ing?) in the Air Terminal of Paxos (despite the imposing name it is actually the edge of the marina and the fishing harbour!!)
We were greeted by one hotel staff waiting with a van to take us. Our hotel was about 10 to 15 minutes walking distance from the capital port town of Gaios which gave us the rare (in Athens) opportunity for some walking every day. Our first evening was spent visiting a local photo exhibition in Gaios and watching the World Cup match for the 3rd place (you know who won, right?)
Next day, the first of our actual Paxos vacation, was quite easy-going: swimming at the hotel beach and eating there (the food was OK but the jazz music that accompanied all our meals, including breakfasts was perfect). Of course we watched the grand finale of the World Cup the result of which was celebrated noisily by the the many (MANY!) Italian tourists in Paxos.
In the course of the coming days we had the time to get to know the island. We hired a car for a day and went around visiting the few villages. The longest distance across the island is no more than 20 to 30 minutes by car, so that wasn’t really difficult.. We were amazed to see so many villas (summer, mostly, houses) and in so nice surroundings. The island is green from one end to the other full of cypresses and olive trees. There aren’t so many beaches and most of them are pebbled ones. Anice place to visit at the northern part of the island is the Old Lighthouse: we watched the sunset from there, despite the rain! (oh, yes, the weather was very unstable in the first days).

Another nice sunset we saw over a steep cliff’s edge from the bar called ‘Erimitis’.

We also went to the nearby island of Antipaxos (less than half an hour away) and the beaches there were sandy. The colour of the sea was a spectacularly clear blue that made the yachts anchored in the bay look as if they were floating in the air. And speaking of yachts you wouldn’t believe how may we’ve seen come and go during our stay in Paxos! We hiked across the island of Antipaxos which has a few houses but not what one would call a village. We thought we were quite athletic in walking so much until we saw an old British guy (probably over 80 years old) doing what we had been doing and with ease! Not to be missed the wine from Antipaxos.
Naturally we went around the island by boat (a must for all visitors) also visiting impressive caves at the west side of the island. Maria was brave enough to swim in one of them, too. As for meals, the best dinner we had was at ‘Vassilis’ restaurant in the tiny port village of Longos.
We spent our time at the hotel reading (we read over 6 books the two of us combined, which is a record considering we were there for just about 10 days). Ah, and playing table tennis!
The most adventurous encounter we had was with a …snake by the beach when moving the beach chairs and with the mosquitos that were waiting for us every night at our room’s entrance door (they were quite the gentlemen though: they never came inside the room!). And with the exception of a brief 10 minutes visit at the local Internet café (at Maria’s insistence!) we managed to stay away from our emails!
The cultural high of our visit was the Greek rock concert at the Museum yard (Machairitsas, Yellow Bicycles, Kazoulis – nice guy, he gave us a ride to the town in his car the next day – and others). And of course this being summer vacation, we had to go the local disco’s grand opening after midnight! (not very wild – and they served us beers that had expired since last season!)
So, that was it for our common vacation this year! Maria was lucky enough to have a second round in Rhodes but not Stathis. Ah, well, Athens is not half bad in August anyway…