Greece: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

By no means is this meant to be a definitive list of the good, the bad and the ugly in Greece. I spent fewer than two weeks there so it’s just based on short-term observations and limited personal experience. Having said that…

The Good



On the whole, everywhere we ate was delicious or, at least, not awful. Only about three meals out of…what…30 were subpar. Everything else was tasty, good quality, enjoyable. Paired with some good wine or some cocktails and to-die-for views and eating out was a pleasure. Athens is also generally really well priced for food. Mykonos more expensive and Santorini somewhere in the middle depending on where you eat. Easier to find good find in Athens too as you can generally eat where the locals eat without much hassle.


Athens was cheap. In some cases, really cheap. The downside to a struggling economy, I suppose. Food was exceptionally well priced (unless you’re going for the super fancy, which we didn’t, but I can’t imagine it’s outrageous. Definitely nowhere near Australian prices). Taxis were also ridiculously cheap in the city – just make sure they put the meter on. The reasonable and cheap prices in Athens make up for the higher prices in Mykonos…but what do you expect?

Chilled drivers

I drove for two days in and around Athens. I was anxious that they’d be like the Italians – aggressive and excessively using their horns. Not so. The Greeks drive super fast, drift across lanes without indicating and there’s a lot of cars on the road BUT they’re pretty laid back. I found myself copying their style, sometimes intentionally as I was about to go down the wrong road, but I didn’t feel harangued. Mykonos and Santorini you’re dealing with smaller roads but drivers still going the same speed.



IMG_1316 (2)We only went to Elia Beach in Mykonos but that was well set up and the water was beautiful. It was incredibly chilled and I could have stayed there for days. The beaches on the mainland looked really good too and the water is clear as. Perfect way to spend the summer days.



More ruins than you can poke a stick at. Lots of history, lots of picturesque ruined temples. Being also the main sightseeing drawcard, it was wonderful to see that sites like the Parthenon and the oracle at Delphi weren’t excruciatingly busy. It’s probably awful in August but in June it wasn’t too packed at all. Also, unlike India, you’re not harassed by people trying to see things. Only downside is you can get a bit ‘over’ seeing ruins all the time.

The Bad

Transport on Mykonos and Santorini

It can get a bit expensive using taxis on Mykonos and Santorini. Next time I’ll hire a car for the islands as you can see me. We ended up taking the bus quite a bit on Mykonos which was really cheap (€1.60 and €3.20) but the buses aren’t all that frequent so you run the risk of not catching them.

Trying to Get the Bill

IMG_0921Staff in restaurants are in absolutely no hurry to bring you the bill, or, once you’ve got the bill, the card machine (or take your money and bring back change). This can get a bit frustrating when you’re eager to get going (or running late for a bus). We pushed it along by getting up to pay at a counter which usually involved us being asked to go back to our seat and being reassured we’d be dealt with shortly.

The Ugly

You can’t flush toilet paper down the toilet. At all. The pipes in Greece are too thin that toilet paper will just block them and cause a whole lot of trouble. One or two pieces is fine but on the whole it’s a no-no. Instead you throw it in the bin. As a result, just about every toilet in Greece has a small plastic bag-lined bin next to it which you throw the paper in. It takes getting used to, and to get over the ick factor but you deal. The amount of plastic waste that then gets thrown away isn’t worth thinking about.

Sunsets in Santorini

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday: arriving in Santorini, Pyrgos, Fira, climbing the skarvos, cruising the islands and beaches, and the end of a holiday.


The ferry docked at Santorini’s new port around lunchtime on Monday. We gathered with the rest of the horde of people at the back of the boat, ready to sprint off the drawbridge like greyhounds released from the cage. We found our driver and then took the windy road from the port up to the top of the caldera. It was a long way with an impressive view.

He drove us to the town of Pyrgos where we were taken to the hotel next door to the villa Glen had rented. The hotel manages the villa on behalf of the owner and also provided the transportation service, breakfast and anything else we could have asked for. Definite a step above the usual AirBnB service.

We were given a 30-minute orientation briefing which provided information on the island and the various activities available that we might like to try, one of which was a five-hour cruise that went from the bottom of the island to the top and ended at sunset. We eagerly booked it at €150 per person. That was Tuesday afternoon sorted.

The villa wasn’t ready yet so we walked into Pyrgos, the sun bearing down on us, reflecting off the white buildings. I’m sure I got sunburnt. We had lunch and then climbed up to the Venetian castle and took in the view. Santorini is a smallish island so you can pretty much see from one end to the other. Not everyone lives in the villages so the countryside is dotted with houses.

After our climb to the top we trekked to the supermarket and the fruit and veg shop (though despite the recommendation the quality was a bit poor). We were wiped out from the heat by the time we got back to the villa at about four.

We were staying in luxury. A newly built, modern-designed two storey building with an infinity pool and a jacuzzi. We lounged in the air conditioning for a while then jumped in the pool, the water bath-like due to the sun and the heat. A few hours passed with us lounging around reading and cooling down.

In the evening we caught a taxi into Fira then walked to Firostefani and Imerovigli, through the picturesque towns, along narrow winding streets and past white buildings with blue roofs. As we’d been informed, the crowds thinned the further along the path we went. We continued to the skavos, an outcrop of rock that used to hold a Venetian fortress which has since crumbled, leaving little behind. We walked out, then climbed up the rock.

Anna and Glen went right to the top but I at first stayed below. My fear of heights – or more accurately, fear of falling – crept up on me and kept me grounded. This then warred with my desire to not get left behind so I climbed up a bit, only to be told by Glen not to come any higher as he was having trouble getting down. At this point, I looked down and almost hyperventilated and had to give myself a serious talking to to make me get down safely. I managed. At least I also managed to make it part way up.

We walked down the steps a bit, saw a church below where two shirtless guys looked like they were preparing to do some firetwirling. This is also the spot where you can do very expensive yoga. We watched the light change as the sun descended, then walked back to the town. We had dinner then caught a taxi back to Pyrgos.

Cruising around Santorini

Breakfast arrived at 8. We ate and then decided that we wouldn’t go to the beach as discussed the day before but instead relax at home. I did some work. I read more of my book. The morning passed. We then went for lunch down the road (I was disappointed in the chicken I had) and then returned to the villa to wait for the transfer to the boat at 2:15pm.

We were collected and taken down to the bottom of Santorini where we waited amidst the chaos of docking catamarans and people milling about and not listening for their names being called. We boarded the 400 S2, a once-private boat now commandeered for these twice-daily cruises. We were three of 15 passengers with three crew.

Our first stop on the catamaran was Red Beach. The beach itself isn’t red; the cliffs are. Probably due to bauxite/iron in the rock. We swam for about 10/15 minutes. The sea floor here is utterly devoid of anything but sand (also not red). It seems not much wants to grow in these waters.

Our second stop was White Beach. Not so-called because the sand is exceedingly white (it was pretty grey) but because of the cliffs (limestone). We snorkelled here for a while, fish being drawn in by bread thrown in the water. We saw a few different species, mostly grey but some green and black (dragon fish, with spines, venomous, spines) and some colourful striped ones too. The water temperature alternated between chilly and warm, mostly chilly, especially about 50cm below the surface. We then had lunch on the boat and set off again.

The catamaran went up towards the volcanoes, one extinct, the other dormant and growing by 4–5cm per year. Here we also went into the hot springs, really, they were warm springs. We were all suitably terrified at the prospect of sharp rocks and water that stained your white clothes red or tarnished your jewellery. Initially I wasn’t going to go in as I didn’t want the minimal amount of white on my red board shorts to stain but then I thought, what the hell. It’s only a pair of shorts. I went in. The water got warm. I swam back. The white parts are now pink.

From the volcano we went up to Oia and watched the sunset with all the other catamarans. About 30 seconds before the sun dipped beneath the horizon a large cruise ship cut in front of it and blocked it. The catamarans scrambled to get around the ship so the passengers could see the sun disappear. The succeeded, though we thought it especially hilarious that the main driver for the cruise at this time was to see the sunset and we were about to be thwarted.

A zodiac then took us to the dock and a driver took us up to the top of the caldera to the town of Oia and dropped us off so we could find dinner. We wandered through the town, all the way to the end and then turned around and came back in to get dinner. By this stage it was already 10 o’clock and we were largely over it.

After dinner we requested a taxi. The first one picked up the wrong people. The second one never came but we got in one that was nearby and was full of other people going elsewhere on the island. The driver went right past our village so we were the last ones in the taxi and getting angrier by the second. It took over an hour for us to get home so it was well after midnight. Anna was ropeable.

I collapsed into bed; I could pack in the morning.

Santorini–Athens–Abu Dhabi–Perth

We woke up at seven, packed, ate our breakfast, checked out and went to the airport. The aircraft was late taking off, not helped by the disorganisation going on around us as we stood outside for about 20 minutes waiting for the bus to take us to the plane. I was worried we’d be running late for our flight to Abu Dhabi from Athens but we had plenty of time.

While I was sad the holiday was at an end, I’m ok with going home. It actually felt like the holiday had finished when we left Mykonos, and the few days in Santorini had merely extended the inevitable. I definitely preferred Mykonos to Santorini. The beaches were better (from what we saw of the Santorini ones) and it just felt like there was more going on in Mykonos than Santorini.

Santorini, however, has the more dramatic scenery with its towns perched on the top of the caldera, its volcanic rock and blue-domed white buildings. Perhaps one day more would have helped me appreciate it more but I don’t feel a strong desire to go back. Mykonos, however, I could easily go again for a week.

Back in Athens, we waited and waited for our luggage then checked in. Anna wasn’t leaving til about 6 or 7 hours later. Unfortunately she couldn’t check in so we said our goodbyes. It was really good travelling with her, no arguments, no destroyed friendships, easy going travelling (although she did have to listen to Glen and I bicker on occasion).

We proceeded to our gate, sat in the terrible Swissport Lounge (though any lounge is better than no lounge), and then boarded our flight at 2:15pm to Abu Dhabi. I finished my book, the fourth of the trip and damn excellent (Britt-Marie was Here, if you’re interested). We had a short flight with enough time to do some work, have lunch and finish watching the last two episodes of Apple Tree Yard before landing.

Short stay in Abu Dhabi. Long flight back to Australia. Slept. Watching almost all of Big Little Lies and touched down in Perth just after lunchtime on Thursday. Holiday complete.

Mykonos: An Island Paradise

Friday to Monday: leaving Athens for Mykonos and three days of sunshine by the pool and by the beach, late-late-late night clubbing and not wanting to leave.

Friday morning we roused ourselves to finish packing and tidy the apartment to be ready for our 8am departure. We closed the door behind us, leaving the keys on the table, as instructed, and went downstairs to meet Anna. Only to find that the external door had been double-locked and needed a key to open again. We were stuck.

I knocked on every door in the apartment building, finally finding someone still home on the top floor. I woke her up but she was good enough to come downstairs and let us out. We were free! No need to break any windows.

We caught a taxi to the airport, joined the queue to drop off our luggage, found some food and waited for our slightly delayed flight to Mykonos. It took off and then it descended almost immediately.

Our luggage took forever to come out. We hailed a taxi (not finding out until we got to our hotel that we could have had a free transfer) and paid €30 for the short ride. After catching taxis in Athens for next to nothing, to pay €30 took us by surprise.

Glen booked The A Hotel which was beautiful. Like nearly every building in Mykonos it was made up of white, square rooms. There was a pool and a restaurant, which we had lunch in while we waited for our rooms to be ready. The room was really nice and Glen and I had one right next to the pool. After checking in, Anna and I staked out sunbeds, read our books and then went for a swim. We were in heaven.

We caught the free shuttle to the town (the hotel being a distance away from buses and the Old Port area) at 5:30pm and went for a walk through maze-like streets towards the windmills. A cruise ship had just disembarked so we were swamped suddenly with lots of tourists. After a quick look at the windmills, we had a drink at one of the seafront bars and a light meal, then continued our walk as the sun got lower in the sky.

We found the two main gay bars (Jackie O and Babylon) which are on the waterfront (there’s a joke there about sailors I’m sure) and have a beautiful view of the port and the sunset. We sat, ordered drinks from the helpful Alex, and watched the sun go down. Definitely in heaven. After our drinks, we went to Niko’s Taverna (a recommendation from the lovely Alex) for dinner. I had a delicious fresh whole red snapper. I don’t think I’ve had fish that good in a long time, cooked to perfection.

After dinner, Glen guided us through the maze of shops and restaurants which were getting even busier the later it got. We ascended up a very steep hill and then along nearly deserted backstreets to return to our hotel for bed. I think we’d made it out til 11, just as the rest of Mykonos was getting ready to party away the rest of Friday. I wasn’t too disappointed in our choice.

“It’s a place; it’s a place I’m going to.”

Objective for Saturday: go to the ‘Shirley Valentine’ beach and the hotel she stayed in. Objective: completed.

One of my all-time favourite movies is Shirley Valentine. I can still recite it off by heart. The Greek scenes are filmed in Mykonos so we had to go to what we could. Admittedly we didn’t go everywhere that’s featured in the film (the lagoon where she and Kostas go would have been nice) but we at least went to the beach where she sits and watches the sunset and feels “awfully… awfully old.”

It’s at Agios Ioannis. The stretch of road is there but the taverna isn’t anymore. There’s an old painted sign that denotes it’s prominence though these days there’d be far fewer people who show any interest in such a landmark. The hotel Manoulas is also there and was used as the hotel in the film. (There’s a photo of some of the cast there.)

A car from the hotel took us to the beach (we gawped at the €30 price tag and wrongly assumed that every trip we’d take with them from now on would cost €30. Turns out it was just because of the distance involved). We walked along, stopped in at one of the beachfront bars, and then I went for a swim. My first swim in the Aegean Sea.

The water was beautiful, not too cold, warm enough to spend time in. I swam along the length of the beach and back again, thankful for being in such a place where the water is warm and clear.

After my swim, we walked up to the hotel, I took my photos, and then we waited for the bus to arrive to take us back to the Old Town. The bus ride cost €1.60 each. Back at the town we had 15–20 minutes to walk across town to the Old Port and catch the bus to Elia Beach at 12pm. Glen set a cracking pace, made worse by me desperately needing to pee. Anna and I thought we wouldn’t reach the bus in time to catch it but it was slightly delayed (or on Island Time) and we managed to catch it. Hooray! I had to hold on for 30 minutes.

Elia Beach

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Elia Beach is billed as one of the gay beaches. There’s a restaurant and in front of the restaurant are a lot of beach beds and umbrellas, then further to the right (facing the ocean) past one set of rocks is the ‘gay’ beach. Sadly there’s no rainbow sand, but there is a rainbow flag. More beach beds and umbrellas. Behind a mountain of rock there’s another small secluded beach which is more nude than the others and you’d only find men there.

We took up a spot between the gay and straight beaches in a cabana (like a four-poster bed) that was big enough to seat the three of us comfortably. We loved the cabana because unlike the umbrellas, you’re guaranteed shade at all parts of the day. We paid €50 for the privilege and ordered our lunch and drinks.

We sat, we read, we swam – the water clear and warm and beautiful. I went off to buy one of those full face snorkel masks (for an inflated price of €55) so I could swim around the rocks and look at the fish. It took my a while to get used to this new type of snorkel. You’re meant to breathe through your nose, as I figured out, because breathing through your mouth takes in and expels too much air and I soon found myself gasping for breath. Once I mastered it – yes, once I mastered breathing – I was able to spot a lot of fish without fear of passing out.

Mostly grey and silver small fish but there were some black and brightly coloured ones too. I was gone a while and Glen thought I might have drowned. I remember giving my grandmother the same fear when my cousin and I used to go snorkelling off Penguin Island and Rottnest Island.

Despite there being a few beautiful people wandering about, they were vastly outnumbered by ordinary people, the ones with not the greatest bodies, or not the height-of-fashion clothes. Not to mention there were quite a few naked people around and most of the women were bare-chested. It was geat. Pretentiousness seemed to be out of fashion and people were just…hanging out (literally, figuratively). It was all comfortable and easy. Not sure what it’s like at Paradise and Super Paradise and Jackie O (the more popular beaches) but we were more than happy where we were.

We stayed on the beach until 4:25 and caught the bus back to town, getting off nearer to our hotel and walking the rest of the way. Anna and I sat by the pool for a little while and then we had an early dinner at the hotel before going for a nap. We were going out and going out in Mykonos required replenished batteries.

Going Out in Mykonos

Despite having about three or four hours in which to sleep, I probably managed 30 minutes and that was in the last 30 minutes before needing to get up. We struggled awake at 11pm and got ready. We’d booked a car to take us down to the port, me nearly dozing off on the ten-minute ride. We arrived in a buzzing and vibrant town that looked like it had no intention of ever going to sleep.

First stop was Porta where we had two drinks, danced a little and then gave it up to go to Babylon. Jackie O was busier next door – apparently out of brand loyalty from the people who’d gone to Jacki O beach during the day – but we were happier in Babylon as it was easier to get a drink and the music was better. Some killer mashups going on from their first DJ.

Drinks were very easy to come by because as soon as your hand is empty, there’s a guy ready to take your next order (and your money). In spite of this, we didn’t drink all that much, but we did get drunk very quickly as the drinks were strong and we hadn’t eaten for hours.

We danced and chatted to people. Anna got harassed by a straight guy until I told him to fuck off. He wouldn’t take Anna’s closed-down body language as a sign to piss off. I was enraged. He slunk away then and didn’t bother her again.

The crowd began to thin at about 4/4:30. The DJ had changed over an hour or two earlier and wasn’t all that good. We left then and wandered back up to the meeting point, buying water and some food at a 24hr bakery. Anna called the hotel and the car came to get us. Hooray! We collapsed into bed at about 5. We did it. We went out in Mykonos=.

Sunday, a Day of Rest

Not wanting to miss breakfast, we all staggered up at 9:30am, ate and then went back to bed for a few more hours to catch the 2pm bus back to Elia. While yesterday had been incredibly warm, the water perfect and our experience by the beach heavenly, Sunday was a little less magical.

Most of the sunbeds were gone, along with the cabanas by the beach. We took up three beds in the gay section but had to pay for four as we were in the front (the only place with three beds next to each other). The food and drink were a let down and it was windy so the water felt chilly.

I went in and out a few times but it was too cold to go snorkelling again, much to Glen’s disappointment. He also didn’t get a massage this time. Nevertheless, we made the most of the privilege we’d been given and relaxed. I read more of my book and we all bemoaned the fact that we’d soon be leaving Mykonos and Greece. I could easily have stayed a week or more. That way we could have seen more beaches and even gone to Delos (we were meant to go in the morning but that wasn’t going to happen).

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We caught the 6:25 bus back to town, showered, caught a shuttle back to town and ate at a restaurant by the edge of the water. We ordered too much food but we managed to stuff most of it down. We had a 1.2kg grilled sea bass which was delicious! It cost €85 so you’d hope so. No dessert for us, we waddled through the streets for a bit but I was tired and so was Anna. No desire whatsoever to go out just as the town was ramping up.

We caught a taxi and were in bed by 11, sad that we’d be leaving in the morning but hopeful of our return.

The Boat to Santorini

We slept late-ish (not as late as yesterday of course) on Monday, had breakfast, packed our bags and sat waiting for our shuttle to the port. We definitely did not want to leave. As we only have one full-day and two nights in Santorini, leaving Mykonos feels like we’re at the end of the holiday, a disastrous thing to think.

We were dropped off at the New Port and joined the masses of people waiting to board the ferry to Santorini. Bizarrely, I saw a friend of my sister’s from back home in Perth. He’d been in Mykonos for a week and was on the way to Santorini too. What a coincidence! as Diedre Chambers would say.

The ferry was smooth but the seats we had were underneath the arctic blast of air-conditioning. Thank god for Anna’s scarf and beach towel.

After two hours and a brief stop at Naxos, we docked at Santorini. I could definitely return to Mykonos.

Three Islands on the Saronic Coast

Thursday: on cruising to the islands of Hydra, Poros and Aegina along the Saronic Coast just off Athens.

I’d booked a day-long cruise to explore some of the islands just off the coast of Athens. There’s a popular cruise that takes in Hydra, Poros and Aegina. Briefly, I’d considered catching a ferry by myself and visiting one or two of the islands and doing everything myself. I’m not usually a fan of big tour groups and super structured activities, plus doing it alone (Glen had the conference) I was a little reluctant. But the effort involved to do it under my own steam seemed too much so I paid the money and got on the bus at 7:30.

I had an unpleasant experience with the guy corralling us all. I’d booked the tour only a day or two before and the confirmation said I either had to print the voucher or show the email confirmation on my phone. Not having a printer handy, I was ready to show my phone. I then got flack from this arsehole who said, ‘All this stuff [I assume he was referring to my bag] and you haven’t printed the voucher.’ I said I didn’t have to and when he gave me some bullshit about his accounting department, I was ready for a fight but he backed down. I was pissed. It was not a good start to the tour.

The bus took us to the port and we boarded the boat with what looked like 300 other people. I wondered if I could have found a smaller tour group that could have taken me to the islands instead but that would be no use now. I got on the boat, found a place to sit and the cruise began.


First stop was Hydra after a couple of hours on the boat. I read a book. I’d paid to go on a 45-minute walking tour of Hydra. You don’t cover much ground in 45 minutes. I could have easily bypassed this tour as there wasn’t much that really held my interest. Apparently it’s a well-known island for the rich and famous. It also doesn’t have cars so everything is transported by donkey.

We stood in a square underneath a bougainvillaea where they filmed a scene in Octopussy. We also went in the church where we saw the relics of the saint. His bones are arranged in a silver box. It’s a bit grotesque.

After the tour, I went for a short walk along the coast, taking some photos and looking longingly at the sea and wishing I could go for a swim. I got back on the boat at quarter to 12 and we headed to our second island.



We had 45 minutes on this small island but I liked it the best out of the three from the little I saw. I had hoped to go for a dip in the ocean but couldn’t find a beach nearby. (I contemplated just jumping in where the boats docked but didn’t.) Instead I walked through narrow streets and along the edge of the water. I bought an ice-cream (which was sickly sweet) and a bottle of water and got back on the boat for lunch.


Temple of Aphaia

If it weren’t for visiting Aegina and the Temple of Aphaia, I probably wouldn’t have booked the tour and instead just picked one island and gone to that. I chose to go on the ‘classical’ tour which took us up to the temple and then to a monastery. (The other tours were a scenic tour or a swimming tour – which I was sorely tempted to go on.)

The Temple of Aphaia is one of three temples that form the Sacred Triangle – the others being the Parthenon and the Temple of Poseidon. I can now say I’ve been to them all. It’s the most intact temple out of the three. You can also see where the altar is and more of the broader complex. Aphaia was worshipped there in the second millennium BC and later became incorporated into Athena. Athena is worshipped on the mainland and Aphaia on Aegina.

Twenty minutes later we got back on the bus and headed to the monastery of St Nektarios. (I kept thinking of him as St Nectarine.) The island of Aegina – as well as being briefly the first capital of modern Greece (1827–1829) – is also a highly significant religious site for the Orthodox Church. Adherents are meant to go on a pilgrimage to the island at least once in their lives. Not a bad spot to go on a pilgrimage, that’s for sure.

The cathedral is finished on the outside (it was only built about 30 years ago) but the inside is still undergoing works. I saw the relics of the saint, less gruesome this time, in the smaller chapel. Beautiful paintings on the roof.

After that, it was time to return to the boat. Nearly two hours had passed.

Return to Athens

The boat docked at about 7:30 and then it was a bus ride back to the city. I can’t say I really had the best time. Perhaps it was tiredness, being on my own, or just not being all that interested in what I saw. I was glad to have gone to the Temple of Aphaia but I think I would have enjoyed it more if I’d had more time on the islands to go swimming, to have lunch, to relax.

Instead I spent 8 out of 12 hours travelling. It can’t really be helped considering the distances we travelled. I’d even worked that out beforehand but went anyway, hoping it would be amazing. Oh well. I did it. It’s done. Mykonos tomorrow and finally – finally! – a swim in the ocean.

I got back into Athens later than expected so Glen was ready to call the police or the coast guard or Superman to find out if I’d sunk. He was on the balcony waiting for me when I got back at 8:30.

We then went for dinner at Macro Provato (again) with Anna, Michael, Alison and Michael’s friend, and ate an enormous feast before heading home to pack at 11pm. Athens has been great.

More Ancient Athens

Wednesday: On returning the car, seeing the Temple of Olympian Zeus, marvelling at the Antikythira Mechanism in the Archaeological Museum, and enjoying the sunset with a bunch of drunk radiologists.

I returned the car in the morning, navigating Athens’ rush-hour traffic to deliver it downtown. I’m sure I crossed three lanes of traffic at some point and cut off a bus. Driving in Athens felt more like being in a computer game than being of any consequence. Glen went off to the conference for the morning and then returned at 11 with Anne for us to check out a few more of Athens’ sights.

Temple of Olympian Zeus

We’d purchased a combination ticket (€30) at the Acropolis which gave us access to other archaeological sites around the city, one of which being the Temple of Olympian Zeus. It was only a short walk down the road from our accommodation but the heat was already quite fierce and draining.

We got into the temple complex, took our photos and wandered around this impressively large temple still with a good number of columns standing (and one that had fallen over in the 1800s and been left where it lay).

The sun drained me of my energy and I was keen to get inside somewhere that wasn’t so hot. We walked up the road and flagged down a taxi which took us to the Archaeological Museum of Athens.

The Antikythira Mechanism

The main reason for going to the Archaeological Museum was to see the Antikythira Mechanism, the 2000-year-old ‘computer’ found at the bottom of the ocean. A bonus was seeing a whole lot of ancient sculptures and artefacts.

The Antikythira Mechanism, when we found it, was in pieces, separated out to show the cogs and the intricacies of a device that you wouldn’t think someone could make back then. It was an astronomical device and, according to the interpretation, matched up a variety of calendars with the movements of different planetary bodies. Or something like that. The mathematics involved made my head hurt.

We zoomed through a few more galleries, took our photos, read a few signs and then left to catch a taxi back.

ESGAR by the Sea

Sunset on the Coast

Glen and Anna returned to the conference while I had a nap. The conference dinner was held in the evening so we went along to that, boarding a bus at 7/7:30 and driving out of Athens down the coast. We stopped at a place that we passed on our drive down to Sounio. The dinner was held on a spit of grass and tree-covered land that jutted into the ocean.

We nabbed some comfy couches, drank our drinks, muscled our way through the crowd of hungry radiologists to get to the food, and watched the sunset. Magical setting, good food and ample drinks.

The event was meant to finish at 11pm but we opted to catch a taxi at 10ish back to Athens. It took barely anytime and we got home before 11. (If we’d stayed for the buses, we likely wouldn’t have got home until after midnight.) We socialised. We were content.

The Road to Sounio and Temple of Poseidon

Glen went to the conference on Tuesday morning while I stayed in the apartment catching up on some work. It’s both a positive and a negative that as a freelancer you can work from anywhere. He returned at lunch time with the other radiologists and we went for lunch at a local fish restaurant. We then collected the car and set off on our second road trip.

Vouliagmeni Lake


About half an hour out of Athens (if there’s no traffic), you’ll find Vouliagmeni Lake. It’s a lake carved out of the mountain and set back a little from the coast. It’s fed from sea water and an underwater thermal spring. To capitalise on this unique natural feature, it’s been turned into a ‘spa’.

We paid our €12 and claimed a table underneath an umbrella and went for a swim. The sign said the water was between 26°C and 28°C but it didn’t feel as warm as that going in. It was a bit like being in a saltwater pool, the water only tasting slightly of salt.

Another unique feature of the lake are the schools of tiny fish that swim around, waiting for anything to stand still long enough so they can attack it and strip it of dead skin. This resulted in many, many squeals as their little mouths rapidly suck away at your flesh like a ticklish massage.

After a swim and a fish-pedicure, we continued on our way.

Cape Sounio and the Temple of Poseidon


About an hour farther up the road are the town of Sounio and the Temple of Poseidon, an impressive ruin that dominates the landscape from the land and the sea. We stopped to get a photo from the opposite side of the bay before going around, parking and exploring the site.

We went down before we went up, seeing ruins of the walls and settlements. I saw a long green lizard while we were later treated to the sight of an adult bird corralling (and trying to defend) its brood of six chicks. We watched them for a while as they peeped away and tried to climb a wall.

We reached the top of the hill and walked around the temple. I was impressed with the number of columns still standing (or the number that had been restored). The weather was perfect and I got some great shots (Glen and I doing our traditional #lickingthings photos).

It was well worth the trip out to see and I was glad I’d chosen to drive rather than hire a driver. Felt we were free to do what we wanted. We left at about 5 something and headed back into Athens.


Mount Lycabettus

As we had the car we decided to check out Mount Lycabettus in Athens, also known as ‘the other big hill’. Getting back into Athens-traffic was not pleasant, especially when I had to drive down narrow streets lined with parked cars. I got us fairly high up the hill before we had to get out and climb the rest of the way. (There is a funicular from the other side to the bottom of the hill.)

Our first view of the Acropolis and Athens was impressive and we oohed and aahed over it. We then repeated this the higher up the hill we climbed. The only downside was a slight haze over the city but in the gradually fading light, it was a real treat. Athens just goes on forever.

At the top of the hill is a restaurant that’s apparently expensive (I didn’t look) but instead of eating there, we head back to the car and I drove us to the Gazi district. We settled into a Greek restaurant (well, they’re all Greek as they’re in Greece but you get what I mean) called Frog Island and ordered lots of different things.

It was all delicious. Alison was coming to join us so we had the problem of deciding whether to leave things for her (and risk it being cold when she arrived) or gorging ourselves (and destroying the evidence) so she could order something fresh. In the end we were too full to finish it all so Michael made up a plate for her. We waddled out sometime around 9pm, dropped the car back at the parking garage and went home. Another successful day in Greece complete.

Mulberries of Delphi

On Monday, Glen, Anna and I went on a roadtrip to Delphi. Rather than join a tour group or hire a driver, I rented a car and decided I’d drive us the 2.5 hours up there. I was a little anxious about driving in Greece, expecting the drivers to be as crazy as the Italians, but I put on my big boy pants and we went anyway.

Getting out of Athens was the hardest part. We left at about 9am, going through busy streets without a GPS. Glen had downloaded the map onto his phone which was lucky and we then took a tense 45 minutes to get out of Athens and on to the freeway. I was mostly worried about the (helmet-free) motorcyclists who zip in between the cars, concerned that I’d inexplicably turn into them and squash them between me and the next car. Thankfully, this did not happen.

Drivers mostly kept to their lanes so the traffic wasn’t like India or Bali where it’s just one big amorphous blob of cars. However, the space between one car and the next is fairly fluid so no one minded when I merged across three lanes of traffic so I could go down the correct exit. What surprised me was how infrequently people use their horns. There’s little impatient tooting going on and people seem generally relaxed (as long as you’re not slow in the fast lane).

It was smooth sailing once we left the city. The speed limit was 100–120kmh on the freeways, with an interesting feature being the two centre lanes at the highest speed and then the next two lanes being 20kmh slower. However, everyone regularly does 20kmh over the speed limit. It was quite something to be going 140.


We made it to our first stop along the scenic – yet faster – route in a town called Orchomenos. Google made us go down a few back streets to get to where we wanted to go but we finally made it. We stopped at a monastery which has a famous icon of the Virgin Mary Who Stopped The Tanks. It was closed.

Over the road were the ruins of a theatre and tholos tomb, which we paid €2 to get into and look around. We located different sculpture body parts – a leg, a torso, a head – though I don’t think we found any arms or hands. After half an hour in Orchomenos we got back in the car and set off to our second stop.


The guide-description I had for this town said:

At first glance Livadia doesn’t seem like much but if you go into the old town in the center, it’s one of the most beautiful town centers in Greece with its old water mills and waterfalls.

The section we drove into was definitely not beautiful but we managed to find a tight parking space and headed into what we hoped was the old town centre, following the route of the river upstream.

When we finally found the right spot, we weren’t disappointed. It was so picturesque with clear running water, water mills, stone bridges and green leafy trees. It was well worth the stop. We walked up to the top edge of town where the river is left natural, and then stopped for lunch in this idyllic setting.

There are also some archaeological ruins (another oracle was stationed here) and a castle but I was conscious of time and wanted to get to Delphi. We found the car – momentarily worried we couldn’t locate it again – and then picked our way through the narrow and scary streets of Livadia before we zoomed off along the freeway again.

We hit the mountains and the winding mountain roads which, for me, were fun. Glen did not share my enthusiasm for them. We also went through a town called Arahova which is built into the side of the mountain and is reminiscent of Cinqueterre. It’s a ski town…not a bad spot.


I can’t believe I was considering not making the trip out here. What a waste of a trip to Greece that would have been. We arrived in Delphi at about 3, bought our tickets and went into the Museum of Delphi (which closed at 5). It displayed lots of archaeological findings from the Delphi site, displayed on plinths and in cabinets in various rooms. Sphinx, a statue of Antinous, a bronze charioteer and lots of gold offerings. I was worn out from the driving so my brain rebelled at taking in too much.

We then hit the site itself, walking up the side of the mountain and looking over the ruins. It’s a shame you can’t enter the Temple of Apollo – where the oracle is said to have been housed – but c’est la vie. We got our photos up and down the hill, a beautiful vista from the top looking down at the theatre, the temple and then the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia in the distance.

One of the best parts of the climb up the hill was the raiding of the mulberry trees, first going up and then going down again. I’ve NEVER had mulberries that tasted that good before. The only downside was the we could only reach a few of them, meanwhile the branches out of reach were laden with ripe fruit. Our hands were stained by the end of it but we washed them in the drinking mountain. Mulberries, who knew?

Delphi: go for the oracle, stay for the mulberries.

After Delphi-proper, we got in the car and drove down to the ruins of the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia. This one’s open to the public and free of charge. The ruins of the tholos in the centre is what I originally thought was the oracle of Delphi. Not so apparently. We wandered around in the heat, taking our photos and then got back in the car to drive home.

Back to Athens

The sun was still well and truly in the sky but it was about 6pm when we left and based on the last few night’s I figured I’d be asleep at the wheel by 8 so we needed to hurry. We took a slightly longer route on the way back to Athens, going along country roads and seeing a different part of the countryside. I also saw four police cars at various intervals, an unwelcome sight after speeding so much all day. They paid me no attention, however.

Traffic in Athens was bordering on the insane when we arrived back in the city. Some of the streets aren’t well marked so it looked like I was going to go down a one-way street (wouldn’t be the first time for the day) but eventually made it nearer our accommodation.

The concert at the stadium was due to start at 9 so every man and his dog was in the area (we’re a few doors down) and they were taking up all available parking space. In the end we parked in the 24-hour car park, expecting to be hit with an exorbitant fee but 24 hours only cost €15 so it was a bargain. They also parked the car for us.

Anna’s colleagues went to the stadium for the concert but we went for dinner at Macro Provato instead, which was just down the road. We had an enjoyable and simple meal – anchovies and meatballs to start, followed by salmon and salad for Anna and I, and chicken for Glen. Good food. We then head home and were in bed by 10. Exhausted but content.