ya sas greece
When I moved to England, part of my hope was that I would get to see more of Europe. Living in Canada, travel is so incredibly costly. You can spend thousands of dollars and spend hours on a flight and still end up in the same country. Once you're in Europe, it's sometimes shocking how cheap it can be to fly to some destinations that were simply not on the table when I was stuck in North America. But even so, finding the time and the money to do these trips has been hard so far. When I found myself with a bit of extra money I knew I wanted to spend it on travel, and for a long time I've been wanting to see Greece.
I planned the trip almost entirely by myself, which - to be honest caused me a bit of worry the whole way through. There were three legs to our trip, and I was continuously concerned that something was going to fall through. Luckily all went quite smoothly. Aside from the time we weren't able to have dinner and had to instead split a bag of cashews. Yikes.
A couple of weeks before the trip, I had hummed and hawed about getting a smaller camera than my 60D so that I could take photos and little videos without lugging it around everywhere. It wasn't in the cards (or the bank account) so my compromise was bringing a disposable camera (remember those??). Carrying it was great because I was really choosy about what to photograph, and I didn't spend too much of the trip seeing the country through my viewfinder. And the photos aren't bad! 10/10 would reccomend.
We began our trip in Athens - as I walked off the plane, there it was. Warmth. God I missed it. We managed to sort out how to get on the subway that would take us to the neighbourhood we were staying. We stayed in the Plaka, which is the very touristy part of Athens. Part of me hates the concept of going to a place and seeing the whole thing through tourist glasses (more on this later) but we were in Athens to see the ruins and we had a short period of time in which to do so, so we wanted to stay central.
To be honest I was a bit concerned about what Athens would be like, especially given the difficulties with the economy. I know we were what is probably a very well kept part of the city but I was more than pleasantly surprised. I felt safe, and it wasn't too busy and people were generally kind and helpful.
While there we wandered around the Plaka, taking in the different shops and restaurants. On our one big tourist day we saw the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Panathenaic Stadium, the Acropolis Museum and of course the Acropolis itself.
That last night we found this incredible road built on a decline, it had tonnes of restaurants all with seating out front. It was full of people eating and smoking and drinking and there was live music and it seemed like it was mostly locals. It was so tucked away and was a total surprise when we stumbled upon it. Re-reading that it sounds so mundane, but it felt really exciting to find it. Kind of like walking into a scene in a film. That night we went to bed early because we had to wake up the next morning at an un-godly hour to take a ferry to...
ANO MERIA, FOLEGANDROS
We spent 13 hours on a ferry to get to Folegandros. It was actually very enjoyable, the views were insane and it allowed us to just read and watch Parks and Recreation all day without feeling bad about it. We arrived just as the sun was going down and were picked up by the man who ran the accommodations we were staying at. Before arriving, I had thought that I might want to rent a car or a scooter to get around the island but as soon as I realised how terrifyingly hilly it was I changed my mind. Not interested in falling off a cliff on this particular holiday.
Folegandros was incredible. Our hotel was on a hill (hill feels too small - but mountain feels too big) and faced outwards to the sea and it was just too stunning not to look at all the time. I actually felt guilty reading by the pool. Charlie did too and solved this issue by downloading an audiobook. Smart. As we were visiting slightly out of season and due to the smallness of the island, it was mostly untouched by the tourist industry. This was easily what felt like the most authentic part of our trip and really gave me what I was looking for in this holiday - peace and quiet. Truly I felt unable to speak above a whisper at times because it felt like if I spoke too loud the whole island would hear me. This was okay for me though, I basically revelled in the silence.
There wasn't much to do on the island, but we spent a lot of time walking from place to place - in search of groceries or a beach or good view. It was funny to have to worry about things that are always a non-issue in London - how will I get from point A to point B, will I have enough water, will I be able to communicate with this person? Without a car or scooter Charlie and I were on foot (there was only one taxi and one bus that ran for about 4 hours per day) which meant planning ahead, doing some research and having a safety net if we found ourselves in a bad situation - and bringing a bottle of water absolutely everywhere. The highlight of this leg of the trip was visiting a restaurant in Ano Meria called Irini's. It was a restaurant as well as a grocery store, something that is not uncommon in small towns. Irini is the one-woman show of this place, waitressing, cooking and running the business. We sat on the porch as the sun went down overlooking a field where there were goats grazing. There was no menu, and she didn't speak much English but her and I managed to communicate anyway. She was so sweet and her food was delicious. This was easily the most authentic experience we had the whole trip. I felt so glad that we got to come to Folegandros, and I feel like I'll remember Irini for a long time.
After four sun soaked days in Folegandros we boarded another ferry which took us to...
OIA, THIRA (SANTORINI)
Santorini was gorgeous but was the polar opposite of the experience we had in Folegandros. Firstly, our hotel was right in the midst of Oia so we never had to walk far for anything. Oia is built into the side of the island, so we had something like 60 wide stone steps up or down whenever we wanted to go anywhere. Our room had a gorgeous view of the caldera, and was painted white and blue like most of the buildings in Oia. Although it was wonderful being out in the middle of nowhere in Folegandros, it was also nice to be a bit more central as we just worried less sorting out how we were going to do things.
The town itself was packed with tourists - especially people from North America. Being somewhere swamped with travellers definitely changed the vibe of the trip. On one hand - things were a bit easier in terms of transportation and there were lots of options for food. There were also lots of excursions we could take. But on the other hand - it felt a lot like being in a bubble. I felt much less like I was in a different country when I was in Santorini.
We mostly spent our time mooching around the village - an iced coffee here - a souvlaki pita there. Gelato multiple times. I think this was about the time of the trip where we got a bit 'treat yo'self 2015' and started eating everything in sight and taking naps whenever it suited us. One day we took the city bus over to the next town, Fira. And dear lord was I sure that bus was going to topple off the side of the cliff. Once there we explored the town for a bit, and then bought the most tacky beach towel we could find to prepare for our excursion that day. We boarded an old replica schooner (essentially a pirate ship in my mind) and sailed around the interior of the caldera all day. We got to swim in the hot springs, which were really only warm this time of year. But first we had to jump into freezing cold water and swim for a while to get there. Once there we rubbed mud all over ourselves. It is meant to be good for the skin - but who knows. On this trip we also got to hike up the active volcano which is in the centre of the caldera. It wasn't your typical volcano and there was no real 'top' but we enjoyed the hike and sticking our hands in some stinky steam emanating from cracks in the crater. Incredible view as well, you could look around and see the entirety of the caldera.
While I was in Greece it truly felt like time had slowed down. By our third day we felt like we had been away from home for ages. Not to mention I didn't have my laptop, so work wasn't really in question unless I was writing in a notebook. I did not miss my computer for a second. It was so nice to just be able to fully relax. To listen to my body, to eat when I was hungry, to sleep when I was tired, and to totally ignore any sense of responsibility or schedule. To just fully turn off. That's not something I often do.
I'm back in London now, and back to working. Back to the hustle and bustle of a busy city. But I'm trying to hold onto those little sensibilities I gave into while on holiday. I'm going to try to listen to my body more and give myself a break when I need it. I'm going to seek out places where I can experience the quiet and places where I can be surrounded by nature. Those breaks are so necessary for you to be able to pull yourself out of the grind and look around and see the big picture instead of dwelling on the insignificant anxiety-inducing parts of life. And when those anxiety-inducing parts of life do manage to get the best of me, I have a new happy place to go to in my head. And it's overlooking the sea in sunny Folegandros.