This next post carries two different accounts of a couple of days. After our last day in Santorini, we boarded a sailboat to travel around the Greek Isles. Adam, Rikki, and I left the boat in Ios and headed back to Athens to send Rikki back to the States. Katie and Justin stayed aboard the sailboat and explored Ios. Adam and I rejoined Katie and Justin on the island of Paros a few days later.
What We Did
Day 43 (9/4/16): When we awoke in our “cabins” the next day, we quickly packed up and headed out to the pool. While some of the Sail in Greece tour members left to explore Santorini as a group by bus, we decided to stay behind since the sites they were visiting were the ones we had seen a few days before. Instead, we spent the day shopping in Fira and relaxing. Katie, Rikki, and I even decided to splurge on a fancy pedicure treatment where little fish eat the dead skin off your feet. The boys were sufficiently grossed out by the prospect and declined to join us. After the group returned, we took a water taxi out to the sailboats (there were three) and boarded for the night.
Day 44 (9/5/16): The next day we were all a little worse for wear seeing as the sea had been rough and brought with it some sickness and insomnia. As we headed for Ios, we stopped in the morning to swim in the clear, cool waters of the Aegean. Adam, Rikki, and I de-boarded not long after docking in Ios, and travelled with one of the deck hands back to Athens via the ferry. The rest of the day for us included finding our Airbnb, and walking to a local Mexican joint to celebrate Rikki’s birthday. The rest of the day for Katie and Justin went as follows:
As Katie recovered from feeling seasick, we hung out our boat with the rest of the group of Aussies and Kiwis. The main boat went to the beach via bus while our guide, Ben, said he would take our boat after we relaxed a little more. We had every intention of meeting up with the group to hang out at the beach but after a lot of chatting and napping we realized the day had disappeared and it wasn’t worth the trip to the beach anymore. We felt compelled to make the day fun though and joined everyone for a fancy dinner by the sea before a night of going out. The food was OK but the bar scene was incredible! We went to about 6 bars/clubs that ranged from a pub-style bar to a electro dance club and everything in-between. We stayed out until at least 3:30 or 4 and we were the lame ones that went home early! Great night.
Day 45 (9/6/16): Nichi, Rikki, and Adam’s day – With a full day in Athens ahead of us before Rikki’s flight the next morning, we went to the city’s large fresh market to get supplies to make dinner. We saw the fish market, meat market, and fruit and vegetable market. After returning the ingredients to the apartment to chill, we headed back out the explore the city. Rikki did some shopping for souvenirs and we visited a couple of bazaars, wading through literal mountains of discarded property to try and uncover some hidden treasures. We returned home and made a feast complete with octopus, fresh fish, large shrimp, crusty bread, and Greek salad with a homemade vinaigrette.
Katie and Justin’s Day – extremely hungover, we made our way out of bed for our breakfast and to chug as much water as possible. We made it to the beach this time and since it was the beginning of the off-season, we got to use the sunbeds and loungers for free, which always makes the beach much more enjoyable. After a few hours of sun, we headed back to the boat to get ready for the beach BBQ. We ate and hung out with the group on a private beach while drinking a little bit. Feeling our age, we decided not to go out that night after we made it back to the boat. The rest of the boat went out and stayed up to watch the sunrise like a bunch of party-animals.
Day 46 (9/7/16): We awoke early today, said our sad goodbyes to Rikki, and put her on a train headed for the airport. Then we made our way to the port and boarded a ferry with deckhand Fais to meet up with the group in Paros. Once we arrived, and the sailboat docked, we reunited with Katie and Justin and set about planning the day. We opted to rent our own quads and explore the beaches of the island, rather than going with the group. We found the price our tour was asking us to pay for them to be unreasonable and got them for half the price ourselves. We visited an awesome sandy beach to the north of the port and ran into other members of the group at a second beach called “Golden Beach”.
Day 47 (9/8/16): Today we set sail for the famous island of Mykonos. Upon arrival, we began gearing up for a beach party at a local club. We pregamed on the boat before heading on a bus to the club. Once there, we danced and drank the day away. After we achieved our desired level of intoxication and Adam bloodied his foot, we decided to call it quits and grabbed a cab back to the boat.
Day 48 (9/9/16): Our last full day of the cruise had finally arrived. Katie, Justin, and I started the day with a brief walking tour of Mykonos’s main town, including a small hike up to the famous Mykonos windmills, while Adam slept off a hangover on the boat. After grabbing a bite to eat, we ferried back to the port to get ready for a big farewell party aboard our boat (it was supposed to be on the larger boat in our company, but the tour operators were having a dispute with the captain and therefore had to use ours). So, after our last family dinner, we once again mixed our Temporary Nomads signature cocktail (Vodka and mixed fruit juice combined in a large water bottle) and spent the night talking, laughing, and saying goodbye to new friends.
Day 49 (9/10/16): After packing our bags once again (which was extremely difficult and had to be done in shifts given the size of our cabins), we said our final goodbyes to our tour mates, the crew, and the boat and grabbed a ferry back to Athens. After a short trek to the airport, we entered the airport lounge which was to serve as our makeshift hotel for the night. The next morning we were headed off early to the Sofia, Bulgaria, with absolutely no idea what to expect….
What We Learned
- Adam and my return trip to Athens really opened our eyes. Where our first time through left us feeling underwhelmed and disappointed in the city’s dirty outward appearance, our second trip there proved to be much better. Places we had ridden past on the bus before, that appeared dirty and unwelcoming, upon further inspection were found to be charming and hip. We found so many amazing restaurants, bars, and shops on this trip that were very exciting and renewed my desire to return to the city. The markets were incredible and bursting with life, the bazaars were like something out of Alice in Wonderland, and the people were generally helpful and happy to see us. So, I felt I was taught w valuable lesson this trip: give places a second chance. Even if you did not care for them the first time around, even if they appear run-down, and especially if you didn’t spend much time there to begin with, I recommend you go back and try it again. Odds are the city did not have the proper time to open up to you and you likely missed out on some pretty amazing things.
- On a practical note, if you do decide to visit the markets in Athens, do not touch the produce. I know this is a weird concept, especially for me, seeing as I have been to many farmer’s markets and was always allowed to select the fruits and veggies I wanted on my own. But this is a big faux pas in Athens, as Rikki and I learned through several loud and angry scoldings from the merchants (the language barrier prevented us from learning this from just one merchant – We got to have it happen three or four times before we finally understood what they were saying). Why, might you ask? It has to do with waste reduction, and upon further thought, I do not think it is the worst idea. By having the merchants select the produce for you, you are pretty much guaranteed that a couple pieces of the bunch will be less than ideal. In fact, some will likely have bad spots or be partially inedible. This forces you to always buy slightly more than you need. However, it also helps to ensure that all the produce gets purchased. And, once bought, people are more likely to take it home and use as much of it as physically possible (like carving out the soft spots in the tomato), rather than just passing up the fruit or vegetable entirely and causing it to be thrown away whole, good and bad together. I thought this was a very interesting cultural difference that, in my opinion, serves to better utilize more of a countries resources. Food for thought I guess…. 🙂
- One thing we found out very quickly in Greece, which should have been included in the last post as well is that Greece is a heavily cash-based economy. We found ourselves having to have cash available to pay for everything from groceries, meals out, and drinks to public transport and entertainment. In fact, we even found several places that indicated they accepted credit card, but informed us promptly that their machine was broken. After every machine in the country seemed to be broken all at once, we determined it was unlikely this was a coincidence, and was merely a way for the merchants and vendors to avoid paying the surcharges for these transactions to the credit card companies. So, if you are travelling to Greece be prepared to have cash available to pay for just about everything. It will make things go more smoothly and make everyone happier.
- One weird quirk in Greece that I found interesting was that you cannot flush toilet paper down the toilets….anywhere. For whatever reason, the Greeks do not flush anything down the tubes but actual human waste. We were told once that this was because of the older plumbing, but given the size of the deposits those pipes could take, and the comparable plumbing in other countries that allowed for flushing, I found myself skeptical of this reason. However, we must seek to adapt to any situation when travelling, so when in Greece, do not flush the paper (and pray there is a waste-basket nearby to put it in instead).
- As is true with many things in life, with our Sail-In-Greece YOLO Cruise, you get what you pay for. The five of us forked out $300 apiece for a week sailing around the Cyclades including two meals a day. When you divide that up, it amounted to a little over $40 per day, well below market for that length of a cruise if you do the research. Upon commencement of this sailing adventure, we found out why. The cabins were small, the boats slightly run-down (the larger one even lacked hot water except for an hour a day), the free breakfast was essentially bread and butter, there was no access to unlimited Ouzo, as was advertised, the wi-fi was crap, and the company nickeled and dimed you for everything, sometimes to the point of completely ripping you off (as with the quads). That being said, if you come in with no or low expectations, you will have a blast. The cruise was essentially a week long floating keg party (where you paid for all your own booze), and while a part of it we were able to meet some amazing people, see some unbelievably breathtaking sights, and make memories that will last forever. Additionally, the tour lets you bring on your own alcohol and food to save money, the crew was incredibly helpful and accommodating, and the dinners were amazing (our captain was a FABULOUS cook). So if you are looking for a budget option cruise and aren’t opposed to college-like atmospheres and accommodations, this could be for you.
- Shortly after arriving on board the boat, we figured out this was not exactly a luxury cruise line. And, while our boat was by far the best, some of the people from the others had a number of complaints and voiced the opinion that they would have rather spent more money for something better. This got the business-savvy gears in the boys heads a turnin’ and led them to spend the next week or so convinced they were going to scrap the rest of the trip, purchase yachts and begin their own charter boat business in Greece. So if we don’t make it back….this may be why.
- We met a lot of amazing people on board, which led to our most memorable moments. We were on the mid-sized sailboat with eleven people, and I believe we by far had the best gig. We were sailing with Americans, Kiwis, and Aussies, for the most part. The younger (and considerably less creepy) tour guide, Ben, was on our boat as well. Our captain was an INCREDIBLE cook, who had a number of interesting stories about his time sailing charter yachts around Africa. And our deckhand Fahis was the nicest guy ever, always there to clean up after you or help you if you had a problem. We will hopefully get to see some of them again on our travels this year.