Travel goals

(AGMAniacs: This was written back in June with AGMA’s full intention of publishing it that day.  All I had to do was attach the pictures…  Clearly, that didn’t happen.  Typical.  But I wanted to give you the moment AGMA in June when I wrote it so I’m not going to edit it.  And it’s loooonnnggg. Opa!)

So yesterday it was 102 degrees.  Yeah – I know that it’s been hot all over the Southwest and South.  But I live in Chicago.

Holy sidewalk fried egg!

Today, it’s “cooled down” to 95.  Last week I was wearing jeans, a long sleeve shirt, and a light hoodie over it.  I’m just so confused…

My good friend, K, and I had similar weather in Greece last month. 

AGMA, as loyal readers know, is the amateur master trip planner. And, if I do say so myself, the trip went off without a sneeze.  Except maybe a hiccup on the way home, but that’s just the way it is with flying these days.

It sucks.

(But not bad enough for me to stay home!)

We started out in Athens.  AGMA has been to Athens three times before this trip, but I realized that I never spent more than 2 nights in that amazing city.  On this trip, we hung out there for 4 nights and it was marvelous (COVID not withstanding.) The breakfast room in our hotel, The Astor (a couple of blocks off Syntagma Square) is on the top floor, and has an incredible view of the Acropolis. 

A really great way to start our day!

And K and I decided that we would end every day on a different rooftop bar. That, of course, had a view of the Acropolis. I mean, you have to have travel goals…

Yeah we did!

This trip to Athens was almost exactly 50 years after my first visit as a student. The top image below is a view of Mars Hill from the Acropolis that I took last month. The bottom one is an orange shirted AGMA on Mars Hill in 1972.

I know – I can’t tell a difference in how I look either… 😉

After 3 full days of exploring Athens (and rooftop bars!), it was time to island hop!

Going Greek island hopping has been on my bucket list for a long time. And hop we did – we visited Naxos, Santorini, and Milos. But Greek island hopping is staying on my bucket list because there are LOTS more Greek islands that need a good dose of AGMA!

After Athens, we flew to Naxos, which was like a 30 minute flight. Easy peasy. We did an AirB&B in Naxos City that was right on the harbor with a great view over the water and of the Temple of Apollo. Or at least what was left of the Temple of Apollo. Which isn’t much. But it’s the symbol of Naxos, and is in prominent place right on the water as you enter Naxos town from the Aegean.

The view of the Naxos City Harbor from our AirB&B
What remains of the Temple of Apollo on Naxos.

Naxos is the largest of the Cyclades Island group, and is surprisingly mountainous. It’s also an island that, unlike so many others, does not rely on solely on tourism for its livelyhood. It’s the most self-sufficient island in the Cyclades because of cattle breeding, cheese, fruit and veggie (esp potatoes) crops, Kitron (a citrus spirit that is incredible!), and cheese. Did I mention the yummy cheese?

The back of a cheese shop in Naxos City where we did a cheese tasting.

We did a day tour around the island that was well worth the cost. Lunch at a seaside taverna in the village of Apollonas was honestly like out of a movie!

K enjoying her pre-lunch adult beverage.

After 3 wonderful nights, it was time to hop again! This time we took a speedy ferry (that was absolutely PACKED with tourists) to Santorini.

Santorini is one of “the” islands that is a must do in Greece, and LOTS and LOTS of people got the memo. It’s a major stop on the Greek cruise circuit. AGMA has been to Santorini twice, but only for day trips on a shore excursions.

I was pumped to be staying 3 nights there.

The BIG BIG BIG (did I mention that it was BIG) thing to do on Santorini is to watch the sunset. While you can watch the sunset from many locations on the island, the town of Oia (pronounce Eea) seems to get the bulk of the crowds. Sunset picture to come…

The other big thing to do is to stay in a cave house. Because Santorini is volcanic in origin, the cliffs are made of soft volcanic rock. Back in the day, the economically disadvantage would build their homes by digging back into the soft volcanic rock with an exterior addition in the front. Cheap digs that stayed relatively cool in the summer. Over the years, these peasant ‘houses’ have become THE places to stay on Santorini sometimes commanding up to $1000 a night (depending on amenities and location.)

So, of course, AGMA wanted to stay in Oia in a cave house where we could watch the sunset. No problem… Gulp. But the key to getting semi-reasonable accommodations is to book as far in advance as you can. As soon as we had made our airline reservations last October, I pretty much booked our lodging, Fotinos House in Oia, right away. While not cheap, it was still a bargain (for the location, the amenities, and the ‘experience’) for $160 per night. And it was awesome…

Our cave house

We booked our ferry pickup and drop transfer from our host.  The transport cost included the portage of our bags from the drop off/pick up point in Oia to/and from our cave house. It was worth more than we paid! The path went up and down, and up and down, and up and down hundreds (no exaggeration) of stairs.  All of the buildings in the Castle area (the area were were staying at) are literally built into a cliff.  

Steps, steps, and more steps! See the mustard colored building center right? Our cave house is at 11 o’clock and our private sunset viewing platform is at 10 o’clock right next to it.

The Castle area of Oia is where 90% of the people go to watch the sunset every night.  And we had our own, private viewing platform.  Seriously. We finished each day with a glass Assyrtiko wine from Domaine Sigalas vineyards while watching two of the most amazing sunsets I’ve ever seen.

Our private sunset viewing platform!!
A stunning view, great wine, and a good friend – life is good!

Yeah – the 3rd night was a bust with lots o’ clouds.  I felt bad for the cruise folks who only had one evening there. First world problem.

It can still be beautiful even on a cloudy evening.

For some reason, AGMA thought it would be fun to walk the 10K from Oia to Fira (the largest town on Santorini) on the walking trail that goes along the rim of the collapsed volcanic caldera.  K agreed.  After all, we hiked the Cinque Terra together 5 years ago.   It would be a snap.

Nah baby nah.

5 hours and 30 minutes after leaving Oia, we arrived in Fira.  It was not a snap.  We had to walk over mountains (at least they seemed like mountains to us.) It was hot. We were sweaty. And hungry. And tired. But we did it!

We started in Oia, at the tip of that white village on the left. We were maybe 2k from Fira when I took this picture. It was a loooonnnng hike!

What the hell were we thinking??   But it makes for a great travel story….

After 3 nights, we reluctantly said goodbye to Santorini and jumped a slow ferry to Milos.  AGMA pretended I was on a Aegean cruise because we stopped at 4 islands before we got to Milos.  More ideas for future island hopping adventures?

We rented a car on Milos.  Our lodging was in the charming village of Pollonia that is about 6 miles from Adamas, the main town on the island.  There is public transportation, but everything I read about visiting Milos suggested renting a car.  We ended up with a little white car from a local Milos rental company that we nicknamed The Paper Cup. 

She was quite yar!

The other thing that travel bloggers suggest was a ‘must do’ on Milos was to take an all day boat trip around the island.  Check.

Our boat, the Eleni, and Dora the Explorer, our guide for the day, in the yellow top.

I waited until a couple of days before our visit to book our boat excursion because of the nature of the weather around the islands.  Wind can be a problem and the excursions boats won’t go when it’s really windy. It was very windy and even a bit chilly when we were on Naxos.  So much so that I had to buy a velour hoodie to wear in the evenings.

AGMA stylin’ in her new deep Aegean blue velour on Naxos.

Velour is trendy again… Who knew?? 

The weather was pretty perfect when we were on Milos, so off we went for our 10 hour trip around the island.  What a fantastic time!  We had a wonderful guide in Dora, and lots of great food, and pretty much as much wine as you wanted.  Plus, it had gotten warm enough to go swimming from the boat.

I case you were wondering, I did not do any sort of editing of my photos. The sky was THAT vivid blue and the water was THAT turquoise.

However, K and I didn’t bring our bathing suits to Greece because we both feel like we couldn’t fit the volume of fabric it would take to cover our COVID-angst fed bodies into our carry ons.  So we improvised wearing sports bras & running shorts!

Oh la la!

And yes – we met two hot French men…  And their wives.  Who gave their approval for the photo. Damn. But nobody else has to know that we weren’t being cougars – it will just be between us WordPressers.

The last night on Milos was the night of the blood moon.  Cafe Opsidianoa in Pollonia was the perfect place to watch it and spend some time thinking about how much we didn’t want to leave Greece yet…

Terrible picture of the blood moon rising over Milos. In person, it appeared much, much larger.

We flew back to Athens the next day and spent our last night near the Athens airport.  The hiccup the morning we were going home was that our direct flight from Athens to Newark that was supposed to leave at noon, was rescheduled to leave at 8 PM, and now included a stop in Iceland.  Which would have caused us to miss our connecting flight to Cincinnati in Newark, and me to miss my early morning flight the next day from Cincinnati to Chicago.

Through AGMA’s dogged determination, we managed to get rebooked onto a direct flight from Athens to DC then onto Cincinnati. Yay! But because of stupid issues (multiple) with the plane from DC and a really bad thunderstorm in Cincinnati, we ended up arriving there 5 hours late anyway.  Boo.

So let’s review… There are 227 Greek islands.  I have visited 7 of them (Crete, Mykonos, Rhodes & Patmos plus the three on this trip)

Only 220 to go!

#travelgoals

AGMA after yet another sweaty hike up a mountain (on Milos this time) pondering what islands I’ll visit on my next trip to Greece!

  

4 thoughts on “Travel goals

  1. So glad to see this! I was starting to worry that you had quit blogging for some unhappy reason. And it was definitely not too long. It all sounds wonderful—except maybe the trip home.

    Like

  2. Of all the Greek Islands, my other half and I have only been to Santorini. As we went before the official tourist season, it was not very crowded. We also stayed in a cave house and had glorious views from the terrace. It was hard to get used to NOT throwing toilet paper into the toilet, but into the bin beside it.
    The blood moon over Milos must have beeb spectacular to see in person!
    Hope you’re keeping well, AGMA!

    Liked by 1 person

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