Greece, Cats & Surprises

Hello, guys!

Sorry for the long overdue posts, I’ve been pretty busy with work, work, work, work, work…(cheers Rihanna!)

Luckily it hasn’t been just work if truth be told, Tom and I went for a short break in Greece! A much-needed vacation which turned out to be… well, let me tell you!

Traveling on Friday the 13th has kind of become our thing. We don’t believe in gambling and playing the lottery but so far Friday the 13th has been a lucky day in our travel book.

We headed to Athens on a sunny afternoon, from London, eager to relax and soak up the Greek sun.

The past 3 months had been rather hectic, not only with work for me but turning a place into a home can be very demanding and learning to adjust from “single living” to “couple living” can be challenging at times. And to top it all, Tom has had his share of bad luck. He broke his bicycle, then had a minor motorbike accident which luckily did not injure him but caused a bit of a fright.

And so we were welcoming our 10 days getaway with great excitement and anticipation. We were dying to see the historical sites in Athens- we  are massive Greek Mythology enthusiast, especially me.
Our trip was divided into 3 nights in Athens, and 7 nights on the Island of Milos!

Athens

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In the words of my favourite documentary, Greek Mythology, God and Goddesses,

“Athens, Greece. A city alive with commerce and culture. It is also a city of faith. Greek Orthodox faith, part of the great Eastern arm of Christianity. But there was another world here once, of which only tantalising fragments remains. […] A world equally alive and devote. A world of Ancient Greece.”

Prior to our arrival, we had read a few reviews on Athens. The opinions were mixed, some pointing out a certain roughness in some parts since the economic crash and others more positive, but all agreed that 3 days in Athens was enough to “see it all”

I personally really enjoyed Athens for 5 simple reasons:

1-Our hosts (and the locals)

Overall my impression of greek people is that they were very welcoming and friendly, always keen to help.

We had the privilege to stay at Pantelis & Grigoria’s Air B&B, in Travos. We had been recommended the place by friends of ours who had stayed there a year ago.

Pantelis and Grigoria were the best hosts we’ve come across whilst traveling so far.
Their genuine friendliness, generosity, and kindness are outstanding.

The flat was cute and cosy, and very charming. It has a blue, that gorgeous blue quite typical of Greece, and yellow colour scheme throughout which echoes the lemons trees in the garden, which we were allowed and encouraged to pluck and eat.

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There were food and drinks awaiting us: feta cheese, olives, tomatoes and goat yogurts in the fridge and coffee, herbal tea to pluck straight out of a branch.

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On our first night, after being shown around the flat, we sat in the garden in the warm and cool of the evening. It was around 12pm. We shared a drink with Pantelis. An alcoholic drink called Tsipouro, which later on punctuated many of our dinners during our trip.

It’s quite a strong liqueur but we never got drunk on it, nor did we feel the after-effect of it the following day. (But please drink with moderation :P)

And thus began our first taste of Athens and Greek hospitality.

2-The food.

When I’m in London or Paris, the way the food looks on the plate is often something that I look forward to. We often say we start eating with our eyes, and it is part of the whole experience.

However when I’m on holiday, I find myself being less bothered by that aspect and more thrilled by the anticipation of tasting new food. Good food. And quite frankly presentation goes right out of the window.


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Much of our lunches/brunches were taken at the flat. They often consisted of a cup of tea or coffee, followed by a light but filling mix of olives, cheese, bread, stuffed peppers, olive oil and tomatoes, goat yogurt and honey, etc..

In the evening, we ate out. It was an opportunity to try local food and traditional dishes. This was probably our most meat-filled holiday. We ate so much meat which was almost scary by the end of the trip, but funnily enough, our favourite dishes were the veggie ones, such as fried zucchini strips with a goat cheese dip.

I also really liked looking at real vegetables. What I mean by that is, looking, holding, smelling and eating tomatoes or lemons that are wonky, miss-shapen is such a simple pleasure but a very fulfilling one for me. It made me realise how much industrialised and “good looking” our food is back home. Even what we get in our street markets doesn’t compare to what we had in Greece.

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On the second day, Pantelis was kind enough to show us around Athens market, and advice us on the best products to get.

I am an olive fan! I absolutely love them and can devour an entire jar on my own in under less than an hour. So you can imagine how I felt being at the market, in the land of olive!!

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3-The sights-seeing!

It goes without saying that while visiting Athens, one must see the Parthenon!
I would be lying if I said I was overwhelmed and filled with all sort of beautiful emotion when seeing it, because I wasn’t. It is a beautiful building, with a lot of history behind it, and for a Greek Mythology fan such as me, it was still fascinating.

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However, I was more attracted by  details surrounding the site. The place definitely takes you back in time and it was that feeling that enveloped me with delight more than seeing the Parthenon itself.

I actually enjoyed Athens archeological museum way more, even though by the end of the day my legs were killing me from all the slow pace walking around the museum.

I am fascinated (and Tom even more so) by objects. I find it puzzling and charming that to us these objects have now become beautiful artifacts to look at, all devoided of their primary function, while in another time, to another life, it had a function and a meaning that transcended its beauty.

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 HAIR BUN, Headdress with a relief proteome of Artemis with her quiver. Gold and garnets. From the”Karpenissi Treasure”, 3rd C. BC Athens

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Golden death mask or Mask of Agamemnon, found by Heinrich Schliemann in 1876 in Grave circle A, Mycenae. Dates from the 16th century BC

It was also great to see up close some of the statues we are so familiar with, from the moment we discover them in a book and to finally see it up close was very rewarding.

As an artist, the sculptures were my favourites to look at and observe. They convey so much, due to the exquisite skill behind their execution and because each character has a historical or mythical story attached to it, and storytelling and Art go hand in hand for me.

DSCN5745.JPGBronze Statue of Zeus of Artemision, ca. 460 BC

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The Antikythera Ephebe is a bronze statue of a youth. It was discovered in 1900 by sponge divers at a shipwreck off the coast of Anticathode

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4-The weather

According to travel forecast websites, the month of May in Greece experiences high temperatures and low chances of rain and this was true for the most part.

IMG_20160514_235141It was nice and warm during the day up until late hours in the evening, so we sat often outside for late diners. I wore a lot of dresses, shorts, and jumpsuits and only had a cropped long sleeves jumper as my warm piece of clothing.

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Disclaimer: my knees were all ashy from kneeling on the ground to pet the cats lol

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I have to say I never felt cold in Athens, but when we arrived in Milos some evening I wished I had packed a pair of leggings and a proper cardigan, but Tom was kind enough to let me borrow is fleece or waterproof when need be.

On our last day on Milos, the weather had turned and we witnessed light showers, including a very shaky boat ride on the ferry on our way back to Athens.

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5-And for the most surprising, unexpected  part of the trip: Cats!

Cats were everywhere! Every corner of every street. Some healthy and some not so much. Some good looking (like total Instagram material, lol) and some with character.

Athenians & Milesians (not sure this is the right terminology to call citizens of Milos, mind you) seemed to look after the street cats, leaving food and water and at times petting them as they walked by. I could not tell if there were any organisations such as our RSPCA in the UK, to provide medical care and re-homing for the cats but it seemed that the locals at least tried their best to look after them and be compassionate.

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13320930_10153828019757858_4392871506159294169_oThis man was feeding a gang of stray cats and seemed to be monitoring the health of the least fortunate ones.

Milos

We arrived in Milos on the 16th of May, on my 30th Birthday.

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(This cake was assembled by the chef, at the restaurant we had gone to that evening. Tom had managed to get a little candle earlier in the day, whilst having cake and coffee. That evening he asked if the candle could be repaired as it had broken itself and put it on top of our dessert. The chef went beyond expectations, and we had a really good time. )

As usual, us being us, we had doubled booked ourselves between Athens and Milos, and despite having enjoyed Pantelis and Grigoria’s company and seeing their insistence for us to stay, we had to leave since the ferry was already booked to take us to Milos.

We almost did not make it. It was an early trip and we woke up at 5 am. Had a taxi booked for 6am. After packing the last bits and bobs, making sure we weren’t forgetting anything, we shut the door leaving the keys on the inside, as we had been told to do so…but we had not opened the front door that led onto the street, where the taxi awaited us and found ourselves trapped in the garden.

Luckily a German couple was staying in the flat next to ours, where we shared the same garden. It was embarrassing having to wake them up so early, especially since they had 2 young children, but Anna was kind enough to come out half-asleep and open the door for us.

And off we went!

The apartment in Milos wasn’t as great but more spacious and once again it had all we needed. The location was good:  10 min away on foot from the port-town. We rented a motorcycle to get around easily and make the most of the island.

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We visited several places back and forth and others only once. It was great to be able to get to places effortlessly and quickly. At first, I was a bit weary being on the road, especially after a minor accident we had on our arrival, but it got easier as the days went by.

In general, people drove slowly partially because a lot of the roads are slippery but also because it is just the way of life. Milonians seemed unfazed by stress and rushing syndrome.

I won’t be going into details about each day and what we got up to. Instead, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves and hopefully, they will make you want to visit Milos and discover it for yourself πŸ™‚

So here’s the different places we went to…

Mandrakia

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Plaka

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Klima

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Sarakiniko, surroundings & others

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In a few words…

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This trip has been the most special time of my life for several reasons. I’ve always had an interest in Greek culture and a fascination with Ancient Greece, and Greek Mythology that it really was a dream to go there! All was made even more special by celebrating my 30th birthday in such beautiful place.

I will always remember it because of that and because Tom proposed 3 days after my birthday. I wasn’t expecting it at all it was really a surprise and I could not stop laughing. It felt surreal!

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I’ve never been the kind of girl to dream about weddings and the prince charming. I am too untraditional and weird for that. As a matter of fact, he did not propose with a ring because he remembered from early on conversations that we had that I did not want a ring as an engagement token.
Instead, he got me an ancient roman necklace, which I thought was so fitting for the place and occasion. Sadly I can’t wear it as it is so precious and delicate, that I would be too afraid to lose it.  I’d like to offer him an engagement token present too, so we’ll soon go shopping πŸ™‚

It feels right to meet someone who understands you and is the same kind of crazy. Of course, I’m a little scared with what comes next but I am very excited and looking forward to our future together but most of all, doing this journey of discovering more of him and myself by his side.

-C.

 

 

 

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