Flying from Mykonos to London

by smartini on July 17, 2012

Me again,

It seems writing is best done in transport for me. I’m now flying from Mykonos to London, where I’ll begin the roller coaster that is the Olympic games. And again, I’m taking this opportunity to reflect on my journey thus far. Especially with this being a solitary experience, it so important for me to write in this way – in the writing, the fun and the learning bubble to the surface and are real again–so I thank you for the opportunity to share.

I’ve just had the most delicious time soaking up the sun and salt water, how did it go by so quickly? You know – most people in the world ‘have holiday’ (rather than take vacation) for weeks at a time, not days at a time. And tend to spend it all in one place to really enjoy it. How very un-American — What I’ve always done, and what I think many American tourists do, is take a week or 10 days tops , and squeeze as many destinations in as possible. In Chios, they were dismayed that I would only be with them for 3 days. Petros invited me for a week to Athens, but I couldn’t imagine spending more than 2 days there with a friend I had barely kept in touch with in the years since we’d met. For Mykonos, I was altogether proud of myself for booking 4 whole nights at a single bed and breakfast. But whatever would I do with myself in 5 days all alone, with no obligations, friends or American entertainment to busy myself with? The only way I could soothe my natural tendency to stay in motion was to give myself some serious assignments for the time alone. And to allow myself to schedule one thing each day – but the rest would be mandatory presence & spontaneity. Go with the flow Sarah, just go with it!
So, my intention going in was to take this time to be with myself, to slow down and drink in the world and truly be present with myself and everyone I meet. And if I got a deep Mediterranean tan in the process, all the better. And here I am now, a week since my last journalling and the time has gone so quickly. Too quickly. I think I could do this forever.

The 2 days in Athens went by in the blink of an eye. While Chios showed me charming tradition and slice of the rural history of this country, Athens showed me the unexpected modern and a side of Greece, I hadn’t ever considered.

As I got off the ferry in Pireaus, I wondered what on earth I was in store for. It was around a hundred degrees, maybe hotter – the sun was blazing, and as the ferry eases its way to the dock, it appears to some kind of organized chaos at the port. This is not exactly baggage claim at an airport, cars seem to be driving right up to the ferry along with the hundreds of people on foot anxiously awaiting the arriving passengers at the boat – there appears to be no central meeting spot or clear exit path. I see no signage of any kind to indicate where I am or what to do next. Its as if the giant ship with 3000 people on it just floats up and everyone pours directly into the streets of Athens. How on earth will I ever find Petros? And thank god I only have one suitcase. I may expire in this heat. Thank god also for technology – I text him to tell him I’m here and in a long orange sundress. I did some face-book stalking to refresh my memory of what Petros looks like so that I had a hope of finding him in the sea of Greek men who all seem to look exactly the same to me (I’m not complaining, mind you ;-)). Hopefully he had done the same. I figure while I wait on divine interception to put him in my field of vision, I will see if I can get my bearings and buy my ferry ticket to Mykonos for the next leg of my trip. When I finally find a kiosk for one of the many ferry lines, I camp out there and start asking questions. And before I have time to really panic, Petros walks right up with an old, familiar smile and welcoming hug. I had no idea what to expect from this city or my forgotten friend. All I knew was that there was the ‘Crisis’ in full swing now in Greece; every vehicle I’d been in so far had been older, smaller and dirtier than we’re accustomed to in the states, the rooms cramped, the mattresses hard, and the towels scratchy. None of this was unexpected – I’ve traveled in Europe on a budget plenty – Its charming – its just a bit different than your typical LA car and Hilton hotel. So, when Petros walks up in Abercrombie and Fitch, puts my suitcase in his air-conditioned convertible and takes me to his immaculate, large & modern 2 bedroom condo, I’m a little floored. How silly of me to think there isn’t room for all walks of life here, flavors and classes in Greece as there are at home. Even in ‘crisis’. Petros shares with me, by the way, that business for him is booming as usual (he’s a personal trainer, and the wealthy are still spending like they always have). While the economic and political situation is real, I’m reminded again in my belief that the universe is limitless – there is more than enough, no matter the age we live in or the challenges we face.

Its far too hot out to do any sight seeing during the day – so instead we stay in, catch up and drink Freddo – which may be about the most delicious coffee drink ever — its espresso on ice (Greek coffee is on par with Turkish coffee – strong and opaque, practically muddly) topped with evaporated milk that has been whipped to a dense foam. Sounds simple, but with a dash of cinnamon, it is so delicious! We finally venture out for dinner around 8:30. That’s early for him – usually they eat around 10 or 10:30! These crazy Mediterraneans, however do they do it? I’m surprised again when he takes me to a Mexican restaurant. I’d actually made a point to get my fill of Mexican before I left home, since every time I had a craving for it while traveling anywhere in Europe in the past, I was sorely disappointed in what passed as tortillas or refried beans. Well, it turned out to be possibly the best, most fresh and surprising combination of flavors I’ve had — dare I say even better than I’ve had in Mexico or California. Complete with a rooftop view of the Acropolis, lit up and glowing in the late night. By midnight (still early by Athenian standards), we had finished eating and were on to the walking tour portion of my visit. I couldn’t come to Athens without seeing some ruins.. I was getting tired, so we did an abbreviated version – and I wish I could tell you what we saw.. But the combination of me in stilettos on cobblestone, temperatures still in the 80’s, and my complete and utter ignorance of Greek History, meant all that was necessary as we walked past glowing white ruins were descriptions like “This is a building of some archeological significance”. LOL — good enough for me, no follow up questions needed. We ended the evening going a bar called Palace, he wanted to show me another side of Athenian Life – not where the tourists go, but where the elite go to see and be seen. The ‘pretty people’ here look a bit different than those in LA. A bit more refined, polished. The difference between old money and new money perhaps. Or better surgeons? 😉

The next morning as I was getting my own training session (exactly what I was craving, since the most physical activity I’d had since the AIDS ride was a long walk), he got a call from a friend he had long ago lost touch with – who invited us to join them at the beach. What a perfect way to spend another day on this journey to the unknown – starting with a motorcycle ride over the mountains (thru Marathoni – as in Marathon, which of course had some significance for me). The water at this beach was warmer than at the Chios beach – even more still and blue and so salty, no effort required for floating. As I dry off in the sun, I occasionally drift off to the now familiar cadence of the Greek voices; every once in a while I’ll hear a word repeated and I ask what it means. As completely foreign as it sounds to me, Its oddly comforting, the greek language.

The next morning, I took the slow boat to Mykonos. For about $50 and 6 hours time, you can officially arrive in paradise 🙂

But as I disembarked the ferry on the island of Mykonos, I was immediately struck by the difference in this place. Every local I’d met who I told I was headed to Mykonos would laugh — when I asked why I was told it was because it was that was such a party island – where all the tourists went. This comment was always followed by assurances that the destination also offered the most beautiful beaches, the stunning Cycladic architecture (all the homes must still be built in the same fashion: white stone, not bigger than a couple thousand square feet) and peace, calm and luxury. I see now, as I look for the driver waiting to bring me to my b & b that this is indeed the top tourist destination for the Greek Isles. I’m just a little disheartened to be hearing English again. But at least its more often then not in a South African, British or Ozzy accent, and there is just as much Italian, French & Spanish in the air , so at least that’s something. Though everyone does seem to be in either honeymoon or spring break mode. I wonder if I will have the same luck that I did in Chios and Athens with meeting people. Well, if nothing else, I console myself that I can always sit at the beach or by the pool and read and write.

I’m just thrilled at the bed & breakfast that I’ve ended up at. Its only a 5 minute drive from the center of all the action, but its secluded enough to give me the feeling of being at a private retreat. Thank god! And my darling little economy room truly feels like a place to call home – I have a private entrance from the courtyard and my own kitchen. I’m anxious to walk to the market, but first things first – before I can really enjoy my first afternoon, I have some paperwork that I must print, scan and send off to the HR department at the company that has hired me for the olympics project. At reception, the husband and wife that run the place have difficulty with their scanner, so call in a guest who they’ve gotten quite friendly with who works for Microsoft, surely he can help troubleshoot. When Dimitri arrives, within 2 mns, I hear him mentioning that he lives in Malibu. No! A greek national, but living 10 miles from me back home? After getting my documents sorted, when he invited me to join him and some South African friends for a birthday celebration that night, I suppose I wasn’t surprised—ok universe – what treasure is coming next in meeting these new people?

But before the evening out, I want to get to the market and stock up my kitchen — I ask for walking directions from Sofiaat the reception. She had given me a map earlier, and referred again to it now. But the map doesn’t have street names on it, I say… nope, she replies, no street names, just follow your nose; turn left at the broken mirror. Oooookie dokie – I’ll hope for the best! I did make it to the market, but finding my way back once the sun set did prove a little more challenging, and I was glad to get back to my new little home & settle in a bit before meeting Dimitri and the South Africans.

The next day, Dimitri invited me to join him and the girls at Agios Sostis, a beach that is much off the beaten path. The beach here was just exactly what you would want from your own private paradise. Are you sick of hearing about the water and the sand and the sun yet? Cause I am not quite ready to be done with it, so please bear with me! As much a gem as this beach was, Dimitri was more excited to share with us Kiki’s, a restaurant hidden behind a church next to the beach. Speaking of churches. I am struck by how many tiny chapels there are on this island. It turns out there is a very good reason. According to Dimitri, each inhabitant has his own private chapel — that means there are almost 4000 of them! Under the shade of citrus trees, this outdoor restaurant doesn’t even have electricity, but it does serve some of the finest grilled local meat, fish & vegetables I’ve had the pleasure of tasting. It was simply prepared, and as I carefully debone the whole seabass I’ve been served, I privately giggle at an emergency room visit a few years ago when I swallowed a fishbone while traveling for work — I’ll be more careful on this remote island. Lunch conversation with these travelers range from Dimitri witnessing first hand the ‘flying monks’ (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon style) in China to the girls discussing their own private boy drama back home. By the end of the visit, the South Africans invite me to stay with them when I venture to their corner of the world. And hurry up about it – December and January is summer and spectacular in Capetown. Hmmmmmmm.

But I think my most significant time in Mykonos was the day I went to Delos on my own. One of Greece’s top archeological sites, on a corner of the island, now only accessible by boat, it at first seemed rather dull and expected. Thursday was the hottest day yet, and Dimitri and the girls were not interested in site-seeing in the heat so I went on my own. Under the hot sun, I looked for shade in the ruins, the first expanse of crumbling walls didn’t resonate with me off the bat. Brown and common, each ancient room was overgrown with brush. Clearly this area of the site was where the majority of the people of this settlement lived. It was where today, I could overhear tour guides giving their lectures in many languages. Well – the next boat back didn’t leave for an hour, so I decided to see if I could find a shady spot for a contemplation away from the blazing sun and the tourists. Find one I did.. Feeling adventurous and perhaps just a little rebellious, I ignored ropes clearly meant to keep people on the path – I went further up the hill and climbed over stone walls to find a shady corner where I was sure I couldn’t be seen or heard. I found a small, clean white marble slab and dragged it to the shade of what, in my imagination, was a living room a long long time ago. I sat down and began to meditate. Within moments I hear a voice saying “Sarah, I don’t think you should go over there – I cannot be responsible if you go off the path”. I’m slightly alarmed at getting in trouble. But wait – I just happen to have heard this voice in the distance from a tour guide for one of his guests. No one can see me where I’m at, and certainly no one knows my name here. I’m not quite sure what the significance of that interruption was. But let’s just say, it did get my attention. My abbreviated meditation did bring a few visuals of ancient times. Interesting. I come back to the outer and decide I can make it back for the next boat back if I hurry. But as I begin the path back to the dock, I notice for the first time the rest of the site. (Its HUGE, how on earth did I miss it before now??) To my left is a huge expanse of sparkling white ruins in marble with flecks of silver. And now I see a walking path up a hill in the distance with a temple at the top. There’s no way I will make this boat if I hike up there. But when will I ever be back here. I’m game. As I walk to the path, the Indigo Girls Song “Closer to Fine” enters my consciousness. At the top, from the temples, I look out over the empty city and the sea. And I realize I have that album on my Iphone. I put in my earbuds and press play. Its one of only a handful of songs I know every word to. But I seem to be hearing it for the first time now and thank goodness for my sunglasses concealing the tears streaming down my face as I walk down the hill, back to the sea.

“I’m trying to tell you something about my life
Maybe give me insight between black and white
The best thing you’ve ever done for me
Is to help me take my life less seriously, it’s only life after all
Well the darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable
And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear
I wrap my fear around me like a blanket
I sailed my ship of safety till I sank it, I’m crawling on your shore.
I went to the doctor, I went to the mountains
I looked to the children, I drank from the fountain
There’s more than one answer to these questions
pointing me in crooked line
The less I seek my source for some definitive
The closer I am to fine…”

I’m so grateful for having been able to take the time to be with myself these days. And I’m seeing now why the europeans vacation for weeks at a time, not days. I am not ready to see the end of his inner and outer journey! But alas, London and the olympics await me the next day.

I didn’t finish this entry on the plane – am in London now and my Olympics project has officially begun today! Talk about shifting gears. Chapter 3 of Sarah’s adventure begins now.
I’ve just loaded photos from Chios & Mykonos. Here is a link: http://sarahswalkabout.shutterfly.com/

Now that the work has begin, I’m not sure when I’ll get a chance for another email. But hopefully before its all over! Opening Ceremony in 11 days.

Love & Hugs,
Sarah

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Rindy December 24, 2012 at 12:05 am

Dear friend,1. tranlleivg from Athens to Mykonos can be done by air cost 100-120EUR per person average price.or you can go by boat-ferry from Piraeus port. ( from your hotel to the port it’s easy to go by fast train, it takes approx. 40 minutes)air companies: Olympic Airways: http://www.olympicairlines.comAegean Airline: http://www.aegeanair.comferry companies:Blue Star Ferries: http://www.bluestarferries.grHellenic Seaways: http://www.dolphins.grAlpha Ferries: http://www.alphaferries.gr2. Cheap hotel in Mykonos: l suggest to search the internet. Prices differ but you can easily find apartments with 70 90 EUR per night. ( please note that you travel mid-season) Check hotel Adonis, it’s nice and reasonable!In Athens you can walk around the centre, go to the Acropolis, to Monastiraki, to ancient Agora, to Syntagma.In Mykonos you can go for swimming, walk around town very romantic, go to a beach party!

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