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A delicious Greek salad we enjoyed at Maria’s House restaurant in Kos Town
Feta fans: We will be arriving in Greece for our 2013 spring vacation in just a few days, reaching our first island destination around lunch time. And I can tell you right now what we’ll be ordering for lunch: Greek salad.
I make Greek salads often, but they never taste even just a fraction as good as the ones we eat in Greece. The ingredients simply can’t compare. The cucumbers sold at my neighbourhood grocery stores generally have no flavour, the green peppers are usually bitter, the tomatoes tend to be bland and mushy, the olives are sour and rubbery, and the over-salted feta typically has a spongy texture.
It’s a whole different story in Greece, where the vegetables are packed full of flavour and the olives and feta are divine. Just the thought of ordering a Greek salad in Greece practically makes my mouth water.
Can’t wait for our first lunch!
Maria’s House at 80 Averof Street in Kos Town. Maria’s was our best — and favourite — dining experience on Kos during our Dodecanese island hopping holiday in May 2010.
Here are two different views of Paradise Beach on Mykonos. At top is a view looking straight across the beach from a point on the rocky hillside below the Cavo Paradiso entertainment complex. Below is a shot of footprints in the sand and the view looking out to sea from what is arguably the top party beach on the island. Click on the photos to view them in full-size format.
A view of fishing boats docked near the Venetian fortress at Naoussa harbour just as some sunshine begins breaking through thick morning stormclouds
[This is the third and final instalment of my report on my May 2012 visit to Paros. The first part included photos from my arrival day on the island, while the second segment featured extensive photos and information about a day I spent exploring the town of Naoussa, where I was staying.]
Thursday May 24 2012
Sudden storms: Much to my chagrin, the weird weather pattern I had experienced on Mykonos — no more than two consecutive days of sunshine — continued on Paros. After two beautiful bright clear days, clouds had rolled in and completely filled the sky.
I should not have been surprised to see the grey sky and dull light when I opened the curtains in my room. After all, stormclouds had moved in during the previous evening, and it looked like Paros was going to get a downpour at some point. But the stone floor of my terrace was dry, suggesting there had not been any overnight rain (I doubt I would have heard rain in any event; I had been so tired from all my walking on Wednesday that I slept like a log, and probably would have snored through a hurricane).
In the breakfast room, Maria told me the forecast did not look good. Rain was expected, possibly all day. Since this was my final full day on Paros, I had been hoping to rent a mountain bike and cycle to Kolimbithres — but there was no point in going to a beach in the rain. So I took my time having breakfast, checking email and making notes in my travel journal. Only four other people — two couples, not together — came down for breakfast while I was there. All were newcomers who had arrived at the hotel only the night before. Maria and I both said good morning to all, but only one couple responded. There was almost no conversation in the room, as everyone basically ate in silence and then left.
Yesterday’s brilliant sunshine gave way to a dull, cloudy sky this morning. I shot this pic on the Hotel Manos grounds on my way to breakfast.
Dark stormclouds move across the sky above the Antirides Hotel in this photo I shot while walking to the Naoussa town square. Just a few minutes later, a sudden downpour forced me to take shelter in a clothing store for a few minutes.
A sudden heavy downpour
Around 11 a.m., I left the hotel to get some exercise. I planned to take a long walk through Naoussa and then come back to read a book if the weather didn’t improve. I was only a minute away from the town square when the storm started. It sprinkled light rain initially, but then the clouds burst and rain teemed down. I ran into the closest store — a sportswear shop, where the proprietor was pushing racks of clothing under an awning so the garments wouldn’t get wet. He let me wait inside until the rain stopped — luckily, less than 10 minutes later. Good thing I had been able to take refuge in the shop because otherwise I would have been completely soaked. As I left the store to resume my walkabout, sunshine started streaming through gaps in the thick stormclouds, and the stone pavement quickly began to dry. But the dark clouds threatened that more heavy rain was a possibility.
Just like yesterday, the town streets were practically empty. I encountered very few locals and only a handful of other tourists. It was incredibly peaceful and quiet.
The clouds continued to break up and the sky got sunnier. It looked like the day might turn out to be nice despite the forecast.
Ducks and geese swim and wade in the water under the bridge near the Naoussa town square. The main street behind the bridge actually is a river, and was constructed with channels that re-direct water to the harbour.
Morning view of Meltemi Taverna, where I had a delicious meal the night before
Stormclouds linger in the sky as the sun dries rain that fell on the wide stone-paved promenade at the Naoussa harbourfront
The Greek flag flutters in the steady breeze above the Venetian fortress
Taverna tables and chairs in a square next to the Naoussa fishing harbour
Tourists and a fisherman sit outside the white church at the harbour
The Big Blue and Barbarossa bars at the harbourfront. Click on the photo to view it larger size.
Red geraniums add a bold punch of colour to white steps on a building near Agios Dimitrios beach. The director chairs and tables in the lane are part of the Kosmos Café Bar.
A quiet lane in Naoussa. The shops and bars along this street come alive in the evening.
A white truck parked beside a huge display of red bougainvillea
A small chapel on a residential street
Clouds breaking: The weather improved during my 70-minute walk. Sunny periods were frequent, and it turned quite warm. It even looked like the sky might clear up altogether, so I thought this unexpected change in the weather could be a window of opportunity to see Kolimbithres. The bicycle shop near Hotel Manos quoted me €10 for a 24-hour mountain bike rental, so I paid the fee, handed over my driver’s licence as a security deposit, and rode off. I had been comfortable walking around Naoussa in my T-shirt and shorts, but by the time I reached the Naoussa town limits, on the highway to Parikia, I had to stop and put on my jacket — a strong, chilly wind was blowing across the bay.
I reached Kolimbithres less than 15 minutes after leaving the rental shop and discovered I had the entire beach to myself. No wonder — the wind on this side of the bay was even stronger, at times gusting so fiercely it practically sucked the air out of my lungs. The wind made it an enormous challenge to hold my camera steady while taking photos and videos, but I persevered — I really wanted to get some decent shots of this very scenic beach. Actually, Kolimbithres is not just one beach, but a series of sandy coves separated by long ridges of smooth-sided rock, about 5 meters tall, that jut into the bay.
Constant strong winds
I spent slightly more than half an hour at Kolimbithres, wandering from one beach section to the next and taking photos of Naoussa on the opposite side of the bay. I would have stayed longer, but it just wasn’t comfortable being there in such windy conditions. The constant wind hurt my ears and gave me a headache, and at one point I had to rest in a wind-free sunny spot behind some rocks to give my ears a break. Swimming was, of course, totally out of the question. If not for the wind, Kolimbithres would have been the perfect place for some sunbathing and swimming — it’s a beautiful area.
Only three other people came to the beach while I was there. A man and woman arrived on a scooter, walked briskly to the beach to take a quick look and a few photos, and then climbed to the top of one of the rock formations to take “I was there” shots of each other with the beach providing a scenic backdrop. They left immediately afterward. I watched a woman wearing a red hoodie and grey sweatpants walk down the hill from the highway and lay down on one of the empty lounge chairs. She didn’t undress to a swimsuit, though — probably because it would have been too chilly. But she appeared to enjoy laying in the sun despite the gusty conditions. I couldn’t handle all the wind and had to move on. I stayed a few minutes more before getting back on my bike and continuing on my way.
One of the coves at Kolimbithres beach. I had to stand between the rocks in the foreground for a few minutes to escape the strong wind — the constant gusts made my ears ache.
One of the rock formations that separates the sandy coves at Kolimbithres. I think this particular rock outcropping resembles a rhinoceros that has collapsed head-first into the bay.
View from one of the rock formations at Kolimbithres toward another nearby beach
A telephoto view of the beach shown in the previous photo
Looking toward the nearby beach from the side of one of the smooth rock formations that gives Kolimbithres its distinctive, unique setting
Kolimbithres view toward the southwest end of Naoussa Bay
A dilapidated taverna at the east end of Kolimbithres. There were at least three tavernas a short walk up the hill from the beach.
View toward Naoussa from Kolimbithres
Some video views of Kolimbithres
More video views of Kolimbithres
Above is my Kolimbithres Beach album on Flickr. Click the arrow once to view a small-format slideshow, or click twice to open the album and view the 74 full-size photos individually.
The park on the peninsula
Paros Park: My next destination was the Environmental and Cultural Park of Paros, which is situated on the Agios Ioannis Detis peninsula at the northwest tip of Naoussa Bay (basically, at the end of the same road that leads to Kolimbithres). The 80-hectare site, which boasts several beaches, hiking paths, an amphitheatre and even a monastery, was established “out of an urgent need to stop the degradation of the peninsula and the blind exploitation as a place of uncontrolled sheep grazing in the hinterland and even mass tourism on the beaches,” the Paros Park website explains.
It took me around 10 minutes to cycle there, passing impressive scenery the entire way. The road follows a hillside on the northwest side of Naoussa Bay. While there wasn’t much to see on my left, the views across the bay were terrific.
I was relieved to discover that it was considerably less windy at the peninsula than it had been at Kolimbithres. Although at least a dozen vehicles were parked near the beach, I didn’t see any other people around — they may all have been hiking the peninsula on some of the established footpaths. I started to follow one of the trails myself, but as I got higher up the hill and looked to the south, I could see stormclouds approaching in the distance. I didn’t relish the thought of getting caught in a downpour on the middle of a hike, so I returned to my bike and started riding back to Naoussa. Unfortunately, I wasn’t going to see the Park this trip. But seeing the lovely turquoise waters in Agios Ioannis Bay off Monastiri beach, as well as the views from the road, had been totally worthwhile.
Looking toward Naoussa from the road between Kolimmbithres and the Agios Ioannis Detis peninsula. Agia Kali is the blue-domed church on the little island in the bay.
The view across a field on the northwest side of Agios Ioannis Bay
A house in the field has views of sailboats in adjacent Agios Ioannis Bay
Sailboats in Agios Ioannis Bay near Monastiri beach
A small beach strip a short distance to the south of Monastiri
Regrettably, my photos just don’t do justice to Monastiri beach. In person, the beach and the turquoise water of the bay look absolutely gorgeous.
Looking across Agios Ioannis Bay from the light brown sand of Monastiri beach
Another view of Agios Ioannis bay
A large sailing ship parked in drydock near Monastiri beach
Video views of Monastiri beach and Agios Ioannis Bay
Above is my Monastiri beach album on Flickr, with a few more photos of the beach, Agios Ioannis Bay and surrounding area
Return to town
Short rental: Riding back to Naoussa was more difficult than I had anticipated because of the stronger winds that were blowing another storm toward me. But I was determined to get back to town before the rains, and rode as quickly as possible. I reached the bicycle shop in less than 20 minutes, surprising not only myself but also the store employee who couldn’t believe I wanted to return the bike with 22 hours left on my rental. I told him I was bringing it back because a storm was coming, and I didn’t intend to ride around in the rain. He suggested I keep the bike overnight so I could go riding the next morning — the weather was supposed to get better, he said. But since I would be checking out of the hotel in late morning and flying back to Athens the next day, keeping the bike wasn’t practical. It wouldn’t get used. I had enjoyed my ride and the sights I saw, and thought the €10 cost had been reasonable — taking a taxi to and from the peninsula would have cost me a lot more.
By this point the stormclouds had moved right over Naoussa and I sensed that rain was imminent. I didn’t feel like sitting out the storm in my hotel room, though, so I walked briskly to the town square to Xamilothoris Patisserie, where I ordered coffee and baklava. The rain started only a couple of minutes after I sat down, and poured with a vengeance for over an hour as the thunderstorm passed over the island. Although I was sheltered from the wind and rain by the transparent windscreens that enclosed the patio, I did find it quite chilly. At least I was dry. Two young Australian tourists who rushed into Xamilothoris during the storm were completely soaked, and shivered while they sat out the rest of the storm with a cup of coffee. When the rain finally stopped, they went shopping for an umbrella — to be prepared for the next storm.
Watching the rain through the transparent windscreen on the Xamilothoris Patisserie patio
The baklava and coffee I enjoyed at Xamilothoris Patisserie while waiting out the storm
Xamilothoris Pâtisserie after the downpour. The proprietor kept the windscreens pulled down for awhile — just in case another storm approached.
Another afternoon walk
Threatening clouds: With the rainstorm past and the sun breaking through the clouds for steady periods, it was time to get moving again. I strolled through the rain-dampened streets for over an hour, gradually making my way back to the harbourfront where a few tourists were taking photos of ducks and geese that were wandering around. I stopped at Kiranos Café for a Greek salad and a drink and then slowly worked my way back to the hotel as evening approached. The sky was still filled with dark grey thunderclouds, and it looked and felt like we could be in for another downpour. Fortunately, it didn’t rain.
Looking down the almost-deserted main street after the storm
Stormclouds and sunshine at Agios Dimitrios beach
Looking toward Agios Dimitrios beach from the seaside next to one of the buildings in the photo above this one
Steps between buildings on the hill behind Agios Dimitrios beach
A rain-soaked lane on a hill behind Agios Dimitrios beach
Most homes along this street were shuttered tight; only a handful appeared to be occupied
Red bougainvillea catches some sunshine as the stormclouds break up
Something that struck me about Naoussa was how neat and tidy the homes and businesses were. Properties were kept in immaculate condition. This house and yard were among the few exceptions — but they certainly were interesting to look at.
This rustic building was also among the few that weren’t in pristine condition
This house probably looks spectacular once the bougainvillea is in full bloom
Lanes pass along both sides of this row of houses
This chapel was just a stone’s throw down the road from the Epi Studios Matsas Windmill
A gaggle of geese strolls along the harbourfront
Kiranos Café and Crêperie at the harbour, between Meltemi Taverna and Mediterraneo Ouzeri. I stopped here in late afternoon for a Greek salad and drink.
The view from my table on the terrace in front of Kiranos
A solitary sunbather on Piperi beach basks in the early evening sun
Fourteen geese make their way down a lane behind Kiranos Café
A few patches of blue sky offered hope that the storm was over for the day
A thick mass of stormclouds passes above Piperi beach
More thunderclouds advance toward Naoussa
The weather looked more promising from my terrace at Hotel Manos …
… and a short time later I managed to get a decent sunset photo as the sun dipped behind mountains on the west side of Naoussa Bay
Dinner at Open Garden
Superb meal: I had already decided where I was going for dinner – Open Garden, a restaurant I had passed several times during my walks. I had looked at the menus posted out front and thought it would be a good spot to treat myself to a nice dinner for my final meal on Paros.
As I crossed the restaurant’s extensive outdoor terrace and walked tentatively into the dining room, I felt apprehensive. What if I got the same treatment here as I did the night before at Yemeni and SoSo? That would totally ruin my evening, and would bring my second Paros visit to an awful conclusion. However, there was no chance of that happening at Open Garden — when I walked inside, the staff greeted me with smiles and warm hellos and invited me to sit wherever I wanted. (Three tables were already occupied, but several more were available.)
An outstanding, delicious meal
I ordered some red wine and the kolokythokefthedes — zucchini, feta and mint croquettes packed with delicious flavours and served with a spicy dipping sauce. That was my starter. Next came my second selection — moussaka made with white aubergines, and served with a side of fried potatoes. The moussaka was light and fluffy — not dense and heavy like it tends to be made in many restaurants — and I absolutely loved it. And I really enjoyed my third choice, too — the fried calamari. Dessert was a trio of delectable sweets, including a “hot chocolate,” crême brülée and ice cream. A wonderful finish to an outstanding meal! The company during dinner was great, as well. Koula, the resident cat, wandered over to see me from time to time, and I had good chats with the waitress and the restaurant owner. Other customers thoroughly enjoyed their meals, too — on their way out, everyone stopped to pay their compliments and comment on how good their dinners had been.
Thanks to the excellent food and the good conversation, my evening at Open Garden more than made up for the bad experience from the day before, and left me with a good impression of Naoussa.
Moments after I walked out of the restaurant a light rain started to fall, and it sprinkled all the way back to Hotel Manos. I didn’t get very wet — I was wearing my waterproof jacket — and I didn’t mind, because I only planned to return to my room and get a good night’s rest.
Koula, the Open Kitchen kitty who kept me company part of the evening
My yummy dessert: “Hot chocolate,” ice cream and crême brülée
Open Garden had an enormous outdoor terrace. The restaurant has since relocated to a new space in the heart of Naoussa for the 2013 travel season.
Friday May 25 2012
Departure day: As luck would have it, I awoke to a gorgeous sunny morning. Of course it had to be nice — I would be flying to Athens in several hours and wouldn’t be able to take advantage of the great weather. The same thing had happened to me on Mykonos — my final full day on that island had seen some rain and lots of cloud, followed by beautiful beach weather the day I was leaving on a ferry to Paros.
If only the sunshine could have come a day sooner, so I could have had time to relax on Kolimbithres beach for a few hours and spend a few more exploring the hiking paths on the Agios Ioannis Detis peninsula. But that will have to wait for a future visit to Paros, and it gives me a good reason to go back!
At least I got to have breakfast outside, on the Hotel Manos terrace. It had been too windy the other two mornings.
I checked out of the hotel around 11 a.m. The woman working the desk that morning asked if I was sure I wanted to leave. She said my room was still available — bookings were down for May, and quite a few travellers had cancelled their summer reservations because they were worried about what might happen in the upcoming Greek election. The uncertainty over Greece’s future in the Euro zone had persuaded many people to plan holidays to alternate destinations, or postpone their bookings in Greece until the election was over and the country’s future direction a little more settled. “Tell everyone you know to come to Paros,” the receptionist said — just as Christos, the taxi driver, had urged me on the ride to the hotel three days earlier.
And speaking of Christos, he drove me to the Paros airport for my 12:45 flight to Athens. He had given me his phone number, and the hotel receptionist called to see if he was available to take me to the airport. As before, our conversation along the way focussed primarily on the state of the Greek economy and tourism. As he dropped me off outside the terminal, Christos urged me to tell people that Greece remains a great place to visit. I assured him I would — I always do.
An hour later I was on Olympic Air Flight 65, which landed in Athens around 13:30. My island hopping holiday for 2012 was over, but I was about to spend the next three days in the Athens beach suburb of Glyfada with a group of friends from Athens and from the U.K. It promised to be a wonderful weekend.
Below are links to some of my Flickr albums with many more photos from my brief visit to Naoussa.
My Noussa album on Flickr contains more than 230 photos I shot in and around the town.
I thought I would share this video of one of my favourite islands in the Cyclades. I discovered it today on the Folegandros Facebook page for a website called Fall in love with Folegandros. If you haven’t been to this wonderful little island before, be sure to give this film a watch. It’s just over 9 minutes long and includes great footage of some of the top attractions on Folegandros, including the medieval-era Kastro quarter at Chora.