Waiting at the Old Port in Mykonos, I confidently stood with my small weekender bag, a fully charged camera, and a mission to see everything I possibly could.
After I got off the ferry in the port of Naxos, I felt completely overwhelmed by all the new sites and people, and having no knowledge whatsoever about where to go. As a rule when traveling, I like to mingle with locals and ask them for directions instead of looking down at my phone (and racking up the data charges).
Four locals, and several wrong turns later, I was finally able to locate the apartment I booked for the night. I couldn’t help but thinking how extremely hot it was and how much I appreciated the wind in Mykonos, as I was literally drenched in my clothes with makeup running down the face when I the apartment owner opened the door. They laughed, handed me a towel and two big bottle of water. I stood under the air-conditioning for a good ten minutes, re-charged my phone, and then set to work on the map outlining the routes I should take to get to everything on my list of things to see (The List Guide to Naxos coming soon). I quickly located the nearest ATV and bike shop, assured them I was a professional and signed my life away, I mean the paper.
My first stop was the Temple of Dioynsis, which I really enjoyed, mostly because there was not a person in the entire place aside from a guard who was sleeping in his chair at the entrance gate. I wandered around, took several pictures, and sat on a bench for a few minutes to read up on the history and original (okay, ancient) function of the temple. It was an banquet hall with various quarters to honor the goddess. I love to read ancient Greek history and legends, and it’s fun to look up what, if any, exist on the island you will be visiting so you know what to look out for. According to Greek Mythology, young Zeus was raised in a cave neat Mt. Zas (Zeus) on Naxos, and got a shout out in Homer’s The Odyssey as Dia, which translates to “sacred island of the goddess.”
Back in 2015, I waved to say hello and goodbye to the now awake guard, hopped back on my ATV, and headed towards the beaches as fast as I could make the ATV go. My plan was to scout out the best beach for sun-worshipping the following afternoon. The island’s reputation for its incredible beaches is ON POINT. They were absolutely beautiful, and the island is lush and filled with plants; the sand light and soft compared to the black, rocky sand of Santorini or stones-filled beaches in Mykonos. I parked my ATV and went for a leisurely stroll through the beaches, which to my delight, were all connected one after the other.
As I walked through Agia Ana, I got that embarrassing feeling you get when you think people are staring at you. But as I approached, I realized they were actually staring at me, and I was the only person with clothing on (ugh, hate it when that happens). I had stumbled upon a nude beach, and felt ironically uncomfortable and overdressed. I giggled to myself for a minute, took off my shirt and then found the boardwalk back to the main road. Noted – bathing suit optional for tomorrow’s swim!
There was an adorable taverna on the beach called Paradise that had simple wooden tables right on the sand, with absolutely nothing to obstruct your view of blue for miles, the faint backdrop of Paros island in the distance. It was so calm and relaxing; the glass of white wine, olives, and fried zucchini balls hit the spot. With my fix of beach, food, and wine, I got back on the ATV determined to find the Temple of Demeter, one of the biggest, baddest ancient archeological sites on the island.
When I finally reached an area with clearly marked signs, there were two arrows pointing to Dimitria Temple… in opposite directions. Great. I tried one way, but it seemed too long of a drive, so I turned around, passing the snickering Greek boys staring and pointing, and tried what’s behind arrow number two. To my surprise, this arrow led me down a small road that was “a short cut.” It turned into a dirt road with rocks, and then larger rocks, and then small boulders. In no time I was feeling straight up Indiana Jonesin’, fully off roading down a path I wasn’t even sure was in the right direction…
When I arrived at the proper entrance to the temple, I had a good laugh when I noticed that everyone at the top of the temple had a clear vision to me driving down the path like a mad woman. The temple did not disappoint – it withstood time on top of the hill in the middle of nowhere, and was beautiful to photograph at every angle.
On my way back down the hilly road, I noticed a couple struggling to push their ATV and stopped to see if they needed any help. They were French, and spoke very little English, but after a minute of sharades, I understood that they were out of gas. I had seen a gas station on the main road, so I offered to take the girl to go get gas. She hopped on the back of my ATV and we drove back through the tiny village, the snickering Greek boys (again), and I asked a old Greek man where the gas station was.
A few minutes later, we arrived at the gas station and bought a large water bottle full of gasoline, an actual water, and drove back to where her boyfriend was waiting…. except he wasn’t there. He had walked a good km away from where he left the ATV, so I boldly told him to hop on too. There I was, driving through town, with now two people on my ATV. At this point the entire neighborhood came out to watch and was cheering us on. Satisfied with my good samaritan deed of the day, I decided my temple excursions were nearing their end, and had to see the town while it was still day.
I followed the noises, smells and old signs and ended up right where I wanted to be – Old Town. The streets reminded me of Mykonos with its white buildings, cute shops, bougainvillea draped over the doors, and stone streets outlined with white paint. After a stroll and some shopping for essentials (colored pencils, a mythology book), I started to get hungry, and a little lost, and needed to find a spot to see the sunset over old port. After some perusing, I found a place called Flamingo. Its sign advertised live greek music downstairs and rooftop seating upstairs perfect for sunset. To my surprise and delight, the rooftop was almost completely empty and the staff was finishing setting up for dinner time. To help break the ice, and mostly entertain myself, I asked, “Are you sure you have a table for me?” The waiter looked confused.
As I have learned, Greeks love sarcasm, but they often don’t understand sarcastic remarks from foreigners (no offense). The waiter asked me three times when the rest of my party would be arriving, so I looked around and replied, “The party’s all here!” Blank stare. I explained to I would be dining alone tonight, and they refused to believe I was by myself. The conversation went something like this….
“So there is no one else joining you.”
“No. Alllll byyyyy myselfffffffff.”
Insert blank stare. “You are eating by yourself?”
“Is there no one else with you?”
“You don’t know anyone else on the island?”
“I don’t understand. Do you want to be by yourself? Do you like spending time alone? I don’t understand what a beautiful girl is doing at a table by herself.” (There’s the Greek charm).
“Yes, and no. My boyfriend is Greek, and lives and works in Mykonos. I am taking a solo trip to explore and have adventures. And for the record, I do enjoy spending my time alone, and there is nothing wrong watching the sunset with a glass of wine or two to keep you company.”
“I see. How does your boyfriend feel about this?”
“He misses me, but he understands I have a need for adventure. He would have joined me if he didn’t have to work.”
Out of nowhere, another man interrupts, and says, “Mykonos?! They have the most expensive champagne in all of Greece!!” (I later learned he is the owner).
I proudly replied, “Yes, I know. It’s at Nammos, and the top tiers start at 24k, then 64k, and finally, 121k 5L bottle.” He looked at me in shock.
“If you don’t believe me, I have a picture of the champagne price list on my phone.” His eyes widened and he immediately pulled out his phone and asked if he could take “you know, a photo of my photo” for proof to show his friend.
I ordered a salad, a ridiculously large plate of olives, and 3/4 bottle of wine, and enjoyed my sunset solo. After an hour or so, the restaurant began to fill up, and with my plate and glass empty, and a few inquisitive stares, I asked for the bill. The owner came back and said “what are your plans for the evening?” I replied I will go for a stroll, and then maybe have a cocktail before heading back to the apartment.
In typical Greek fashion, he told me I shouldn’t go home, there is a great bar just 30 meters down the street that he highly recommends (his friend owns it, of course), and there are lots of interesting people that come in and out, a great place for people watching. I obliged, and he left the restaurant to walk me to the bar to make sure I was in good hands, and left to go back to work. I found myself in a lively crew of people, and we shared a drinks and stories for the next hour or so. It was a hilarious evening, and I am still stay in touch with these people to this day!
In the morning, I drove to the beach spots from the day before, and found a nice beach bed at the end closest to the sea, got settled and then ordered some brunch. The freddo espresso came, but I was very hungry, slightly hungover and my food was taking far too long, when out of the distance I heard a man yelling, “Doooooooooonnuts! Dooooooooonuts!” I turned my head to find an old Greek man with the most amazing handlebar mustache holding a large rectangular box strapped on to his belly like crackerjacks at a baseball stadium. I debated ordering one, and then tried to fight off the temptation off as I knew my brunch would be arriving shortly.
He smiled as we walked passed me and again shouted, “Dooooooooooonuttttts!!” I couldn’t help but laugh… and then I saw the large, fresh, perfectly sugared box of donuts pass me, the smell absolutely delicious, and then watched him pass further along to stop at a couple a few beach chairs down. That’s it, game time. I shouted “Donut!! I’ll have a donut!!!!” Unfortunately, he did not hear me, so I sprang up from the beach chair, fell over, got up and ran after the man in my bikini yelling “Donut!!! I want a donut!!!” I heard a few chuckles as I ran by from onlookers, but I didn’t care, I was on a mission. I finally caught up to him, purchased my delicious, melt in your mouth donut, and took a bite before I handed him my euro coin. I even raised my donut in a ‘cheers’ motion to the other man and his wife who were smarter than me to take him up on his initial offer, and happily sat down with my donut like a little kid. Of course, my brunch came a mere 2 minutes later, but it was a great decision nonetheless.
After a few hours on the beach, I had to head back to the apartment to check out, grab my bag, return the ATV, and head back towards the town and port area. I went for a wonderful swim in the cove under Apollo’s Temple, and ordered calamari, salad and potatoes (a whopping 8 euro) at a restaurant in town, and then walked to the port to get on the ferry back to Mykonos. Not bad, Naxos, not bad.