Three Weeks in Greece
Sometimes it takes too long for the snow and push through the brown. The sun’s delayed, spring apparently deferred for weeks. At times like these, it makes sense to go to Greece.
Last May and with particular impatience for summer, my mom, sister and I book flights to Athens. Three weeks in the Mediterranean, exploring mainland Greece and four islands byway of AirBnBs and hostels. Goodbye snow, hello sand. We’ve always wanted to travel together, just the three of us.
“Greece?” Mom suggests. Jenn and I can’t think of a reasonable objection. Greece it is.
Following a wild taxi ride to downtown Athens, we awake the next morning eager to explore the Plaka (market) and Acropolis. We walk below orange trees, and near to the market find ourselves on a too-quiet street.
There’s a middle-aged man hiding in a corner, his hands in his sweatpants. Hoping to avoid an uncomfortable (and potentially dangerous) situation, we walk faster. A minute later, the man we thought to have avoided pops out from between two cars with his pants at his ankles, his thing in his hand.
Welcome to Greece!
“NO!” I yell, shaking my fist at him. “*#$%!” responds my sister. Trying to wash the filth of first impressions from our minds, we walk the market, eat souvlaki, and make it safely back home that evening.
We catch a flight to Crete, Greece’s most populous and largest island, and the birthplace of Zeus. We eat olives on a white sand beach and hike 22 kilometres through the Samaria Gorge. Mom, at the age of 61, finishes the hike with sore knees. We cheers her with oversized milkshakes.
A few days later we arrive on Santorini and find ourselves in a hostel with our own private patio for sunbathing and cake-eating. The whitewashed cities of Fira and Oia cling to volcanic cliffs over the Aegean Sea. It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.
Donkeys decorated with gems walk the hundreds of steps up from the docks below. We ATV around the island, soak up the sunshine, and make our way to Oia for a windy sunset atop an old castle wall. I take photographs and notice my mom and sister giddy with Raki across from me. They laugh at the intense wind, more than tousling their hair. I’m overjoyed to share this with them.
For the next three days, we lose ourselves in narrow alleyways below florescent-pink bougainvillea on the party island of Mykonos. Jenn and I dance at the Scandinavian Bar disco, spend the next day recovering from too much tequila.
“Can we just stay here, forever?” I ask her over $2 gyros. “Yes, please,” she replies.
The next night we arrive on the island of Zakynthos. I drive the three of us in the dark to our own Utopia, a bed and breakfast overlooking the Ionian Sea. We want to swim the blue sea caves, touch down on Shipwreck Beach—a place I’ve only ever dreamed about. Feel the sand between our toes.
Our boat docks just offshore and I sink my feet into the white sand, the chalky cliffs towering above us. The shipwreck lays beached and rusting by the salty sea. I never thought I’d be here. My heart flutters.
“A little dream come true.”
We swim in the Kool-Aid-blue water, eat garlic sea bass caught fresh that morning for dinner, watch the sunset from our patio, wrapped in blankets while sipping a bottle of Zakynthos red. After a tour through the ancient monasteries of Meteora among wondrous mountains on the mainland, we spend our last night back in Athens.
Under the glow of garden lights in the Plaka, we eat pasta, souvlaki, and the most flavourful, olive oil induced Greek salad with juicy peppers and tomatoes. Savour every bite, every last moment.
And then we fly home. The grass has turned green, and our hearts have filled with love for Greece, the memory of the man in the black sweatpants on a quiet street in Athens but a figment of our imagination. Almost.
Sometimes all we need is a little travel to put our senses in order.