The very end of the summer is always my favorite time to travel, especially to the beach. The crowds have gone and the water has had all summer to warm, so it feels like a giant outdoor bath, and residents move at a slow pace and share satisfied smiles after a busy season. It’s like you’re in on their secret.
And so I found myself in Paros, Greece, in September, lying on the beach by day and falling asleep to the sound of waves at night. Though there’s actually quite a bit to do in Paros, I didn’t do any of it. I was there to work and sleep and savor the sun.
Flying from London to Athens, my friend Micaela and I were instantly reminded of Rome, where we both lived for two years. Southern Europe has a frenetic pace that I love, from the traffic to the friendly banter among shop owners to the late humid nights when groups of young people gather outdoors to drink wine and make out amidst some of the world’s most famous ancient ruins.
Though we didn’t reach our Airbnb near the port until midnight, a nearby restaurant was bustling and we sat down at 1:00am to fried eggplant, hummus, and tomatoes. From the number of couples and friends out until early in the morning, you wouldn’t know Greece’s economy has been a major topic of international news for the past year.
The next morning, we took a ferry to Paros, where we would stay for five days on Krios beach, about a 20 minute walk (or five minute taxi drive) from Parikia, the downtown port area. If you’re looking for relaxation, this is it. There are two cafes with beaches, and one hotel. We spent almost all of our time right outside the hotel at Peter’s Cafe, where we befriended the owner and sipped iced coffees, alternating each hour of work with an hour of lying in the sun or jumping in the sea.
Charis Kondylis, the owner of Peter’s, was quite the character, and we ended up spending a lot of time talking with him both in Paros and Athens. More on that here.
We did venture into Parikia twice for seafood. Our host recommended Koralli, and we couldn’t have been happier with the mussels and local wine. The pasta could have been slightly more al dente, but we’re harsh critics. 🙂
Back in Athens for our last 36 hours, we sipped cocktails then met up with Charis and his wife for one of the best (and most filling!) meals I’ve ever had in my life.
I was pleasantly surprised by Athens. I had visited in 2010 and found it boring, dirty, and depressing. Maybe it’s because I visited after months of living in Jordan and was eager to get home, or maybe I hadn’t realized my love for southern Europe yet. Whatever it was, this time I was enamored and can’t wait to go back. There are the museums and ruins, of course, but it’s the boutiques, start ups, surprisingly good public transport, gleaming streets (especially in the center), outdoor bars, laid back attitudes, friendly shop owners, stunning vistas, proximity to the water, style, juicy tomatoes, and affinity for bakeries and strong coffee that pulled me in. Plus, I’ve always had a weakness for Greek mythology.
After taking an obligatory walk around the Acropolis before leaving for the airport, we found ourselves looking for something healthy and rejuvenating after the heavy feast the night before. “Like, a vegetable juice. That would be perfect,” said Micaela. No sooner had she said it, than we turned the corner and it appeared. Froots Juice Bar opened in May, and the co-founders say so far its been a hit with both tourists and locals. “We’ve traveled a lot, and we’ve seen things like this in other countries, but not in Greece,” one of them told me. She said she and her partner wanted to bring healthier food into the city, and educate people on the benefits of natural, whole ingredients. Juice bars like this are normal in the US and many other places, but it didn’t surprise me that nothing had existed in Athens prior to Froots opening. Rome was the same way. The menu at Froots Juice Bar is vast, separated by what type of juice service you need: detox, energy, cleansing, focus, even libido. We went for a yogurt smoothie with mixed berries, flax seeds, and honey, enjoyed in the colorful garden before catching a taxi to the airport.
And so concluded a sunny, relaxing, working holiday in Greece.