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Trip report: two weeks in Greece with family group of seven

We are back from our trip to Greece and I am going to post some summary items for those who don’t want to read the whole report.
We had the trip of a life time. We were there for two weeks. There were seven of us—myself and my husband, my husband’s brother, our three kids (21, 25, 27) and my daughter’s husband. We went to Santorini (3 nights), Naxos (4 nights), Napflio (4 nights) and Athens (3 nights—although half our group went home after 2). There was more to do everywhere than we had time but where we would really have liked one more day was Naxos.

Starting in Oia was perfect for getting over jet lag. The only disadvantage of starting on the islands is that it got hotter as time went on and the main land is hotter than the islands. We ended up with highs of 97 in Nafplio and 95 in Athens in the first week of June. We went to the beach in Nafplio and to air conditioned museums in Athens. But I think despite this weather disadvantage that the order was preferable for appreciating Greece.

I had way too much planned than we could do. So my advice would be to plan it and then go with the flow. That may be particularly true with a large group. We ended up visiting a winery in Nemea that we would not have had the contact information for had I not researched it. So you never know when your research will be useful. It was a nice change from visiting ruins.

We did not rush except for one day when we went to Mycanae, Nemea, and the winery. Everyone was glad we did but some people got cross at being pushed to leave Mycanae after two hours. So I was really glad that for the most part we moved at the slowest person’s pace.

We did not insist that people stay together but for the most part we did. My youngest son really wanted to climb the 999 steps to the Palmidi fortress and asked me to go with him at 7:30 am (because of the heat). I told everyone else we were going and they were welcome to join. To my surprise, we had seven people out of the house at 7:45 am.
I found Rick Steve’s guides good for when there was more than we could easily see but that many times we spent a lot more time than he seemed to suggest. It was great for the National Archeological Museum but we spent the entire morning at the Palmidi fortress and it was several of our group’s favorite activity.

We stayed in air bnbs everywhere but Naxos. It was more economical for a group and gave us common spaces to gather. But we had some problems in 2 of the 3 places meeting up to get entrance. In the U.S., lock boxes with combinations that can be changed are common. But we had to meet people which didn’t work completely smoothly. My husband also missed having a desk to help (we all loved Kymata in Naxos) so that is a tradeoff with an air bnb.
We ended up ordering take out about half the time. We had great common spaces in our rentals (and rented roof top room in Kymata in Naxos). It was more economical but also less time consuming than eating out. And sometimes we were just too tired to do anything else.
We rented cars for at least part of the time everywhere. We had reserved a van in Santorini through Vaezos but the van was somewhere else. They gave us two automatic cars instead which we ended up being pleased about. The roads are narrow and the drivers are aggressive. We ended up changing our reservation for a van from Athens airport to two cars.
We rented from Athens Car Rental. They did not have a map for us and we should have gone back into the airport and bought one. They told us where to return the car but upon return it was not clear because the red lane (and we thought they said “line”) was a no parking zone. I have never had to return a car to a different place than I rented it from and I would have insisted in retrospect on being walked to where it was. It was problematic.
But overall, a simply wonderful trip and thanks to all who helped.

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Day 1

I flew from Samos, where I had been at a conference, to Athens airport to meet my husband and youngest son to fly to Santorini. My brother in law had arrived in Santorini the evening before and my older son, daughter, and her husband at midnight. After more than 24 hours of traveling, they were not impressed with hard beds, Greek showers, and toilets. Their mood changed considerably by morning when I received texts with pictures of the breakfast at the place they were staying near the airport.

I arranged for a transport company to pick them up and us up from the airport to take us to Oia. That all went smoothly but there was no one waiting by the bus stop for us to let us into our air bnb. I tried calling the numbers and couldn’t get through. After 15 minutes the person showed up and took us to the house.
It is a lovely place with three bedrooms (one once was the livingroom) and a beautiful wrap around porch with views of the ocean. The only disadvantage is no a/c and it wasn’t that it was too hot with windows open but that my daughter and I who are light sleepers found the noise (like dogs barking) distracting. The boys take off as soon as they dump their stuff while the rest of us settle in. They come back in an hour and tell us you would not believe how beautiful this place is. We all go walking then.

My youngest son loses us when he stops to pet a dog. There were dogs and cats everywhere and he stopped to pet most of them. But we did not know this yet. The animals do not seem to belong to anyone but obviously are being fed, although many are pretty mangy.
We ate gyros on a table on the porch with wine from a supermarket. It was a great way to start our trip. The boys ran off with their cameras right after dinner and the rest of us followed more slowly. My brother in law had a near by place with a balcony view of the caldera and we watched the sun set there. The crowds had increased greatly over the afternoon.
Day 2
We hiked from Oia to Fira following an elaborate breakfast made by my youngest son. It was probably 10 am before we started the hike. All the advice seems to be to go from Fira to Oia but I had wisely decided that taking a bus would be too much to do before beginning the hike. It would have been even later.
It was the most beautiful hike I have ever done. It took us about four hours with all the picture taking. I had one blister but the others seemed to fare better. There were opportunities for pictures with dogs, including one that we saw later back in Oia. They must hike with the tourists.
The younger generation wanted lunch with a view so we left them there and found a place on a balcony (but no view) with much better food and lower prices.
I made reservations for dinner at STANI for the next night and went to a travel agency to buy ferry tickets to Naxos.
We were to travel to Naxos on the one day of a strike. It seemed online that there was one ferry running—someone on this board said it was a subsidized one that ran only to the islands (not back to Athens). The person in the travel agency told me no ferries but when I insisted he asked someone else, who confirmed the ferry was going. So it helps to do your research.
We took a bus back to Oia and then went down to Ammoudi Bay. My sons, who apparently thought I was talking it up too much, told me later that I was right about how beautiful it was. The water was OK but the air was not that warm as it was 5 pm by now. I went in the water but not to the cliffs. My husband and his brother stayed on the rocks and the younger generation all went cliff jumping.
I was ready to order in again but the foodies in my family had their heart set on going out. We went to a place nearby recommended by the owner of the air bnb. Some of the food was very good, some was not as good and it was the most expensive meal we had in Greece (165 EUROS for 7 people). Oia does not have good budget options aside from gyros.

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Day 3
We showed up at the car rental agency where I had reserved an automatic van only to be told that it was somewhere else. They ended up giving us two automatic cars which was a blessing as the roads are very narrow and the spaces you have to get through in towns very tight. I am not sure how the buses do it. I was pretty white knuckled driving at first though. The roads are more curvy and hilly than I had expected and people pass very aggressively. There is one spot of the hike to Fira where the hikers walk on the road and there was a bus coming the other way. I slowed down almost to a stop but as soon as the traffic went by, a car whipped around and passed me even though it was a no passing zone.
We met up at Akrotiri. I was so glad to be out of the car and in one piece that I walked right by the sign for tours. It was a mistake. It was hard to make sense of what you saw and many of our group ended up eavesdropping on other tours.

After lunch at a road side stand, we went to Red Beach which is supposedly closed but you would not know it from the throngs of people coming and going. My older son convinced me that the chances of getting hit by a rock at the Red Beach were far less than driving on the freeways in South Florida! We sat in the area beyond the red rocks figuring why increase our risk more than we had to. Some of our group went swimming.
Afterwards, we drove to Akrotiri light house. It was even more amazing than the walk from Oia to Fira. It doesn’t get much press in the guidebooks but would highly recommend if you have a car.
Then we went to Pirgos but I couldn’t figure out where to turn so instead decided to drive to the monastery above it. It was a bit unnerving as the road was one and a half lanes and there was a cliff on the one side. I was on the cliff side so let the cars coming the other way drive half on the road. The view was beautiful and there was a court yard with the monastery and a store where we bought a few things from the monks.

We drove then to Fira for dinner at STANI. It was a great success. My youngest son told me that the food was better, the view was better, and the prices were lower than the place we had eaten at the night before. I told him it was recommended on this forum and he declared that we should not eat anywhere I had not researched!
We drove back to Oia right after sunset. I had not expected to be driving in the near dark (because thought we would have the van which my husband would drive. I don’t see that well at night and compensated by following a bus which lit the way. I was relieved to be back in Oia.

Day 4
I looked online to double check on the ferry, because of the strike, and the ferry was no longer listed. I didn’t realize that was standard and panicked a bit. We decided to go anyway (we were returning rental cars at port) while making plans for another day in Santorini. There were cars with just drivers coming up from the port so looked like it was a go. The ferry looked big to me but apparently is smaller than the Blue Star Ferries. It took almost four hours because it stopped so many places to get to Naxos. Several of us felt sick and my daughter actually got sick. She decided against ever taking a cruise!

Finally, we arrived and could not find the people from Kymata Hotel who were supposed to meet us. So we walked there, not really wanting to get into another moving vehicle anyway. My two sons quickly made arrangements to rent an ATV to go visit the beaches while the rest of us took off walking to find lunch and to see the town.
We had dinner at St. George’s beach at a place I had found later in the afternoon while walking and the man at the hotel desk had confirmed was a great place. The boys met us there and told us that they had been exploring the beaches and Naxos was even better than Santorini! The prices were lower than Santorini and the food was even better.

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Day 5

The boys took off in the ATV again while the rest of us planned to take a tour of the castle area. But when we got there, it didn’t seem to be running. It was still May and our guess was that it only runs in high season-a disadvantage of going shoulder season. We went into several of the museums and wandered around a bit but missed getting the gestalt of the area.

We went back to our hotel and asked some questions about taking the bus to Plaka Beach. We were told we could rent a small manual transmission for the same price for five people. My husband and I had driven manuals for years but had switched over to automatics when our children started driving. The weather was windier and cooler than ideal for the beach so we ended up having lunch and then driving around from beach to beach.
We moved to roof top room at the Kymata (had been reserved our first night) and decided to order pizza in. The boys returned with bad news. The ATV had toppled over in the mountains and was damaged. Fortunately, they were driving very slow and my older son was scrapped up but not seriously injured. They had rented it through tomorrow so we decided that one of us would go with them to deal with it in the morning.

But somehow the place figured out the ATV had been damaged and called the hotel upset. I happened to be downstairs when the call came in and took the phone. I was told the boys had not been honest with them when they came in to pay the extra day for the vehicle. I agree to go with the right then to the rental place. It may have been cultural but they were convinced that the boys were trying to deceive them because they didn’t tell them about the damage when they came back to pay for the second day. They thought it was crazy that they would want to meet their parents for dinner on time and that they just didn’t want to deal with it at the time. The car rental place had my older son’s credit card number so it was hard for us to understand how they thought we would skip town without paying. They brought in a mechanic to assess the vehicle and he said it had damage to the steering as well as cosmetic damage. They had not bought the insurance (which had a 1000 Euro deductible) and now things looked grim. They told us to come back tomorrow night for the estimate.
My younger son was very upset afterwards and walked back alone. Apparently, he kicked a wall out of frustration and injured himself. We ended up getting him an elastic brace and a crunch of sorts the next day which he used until our last day in Greece.

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Day 6
We were renting two automatic cars to drive to the mountains and who should show up but the same man we were dealing with the night before with the ATV with the boys. It was a bit awkward but I think the additional interaction helped change their attitude towards us.
We drive to the Temple of Demeter which turns out to be more interesting than we expected. Plus, there was a great view from the top. My son with the hurt foot ends up hopping most of the way up. He is not in great shape but is determined to see things.

Then on to Halki. We go to the distillery there and get a tour of sorts and sample the spirits. We then eat lunch at this tiny place off the main square where there are like five choices for lunch. The food once again is wonderful and the prices low.
Finally, we drive to Apiranthos. I was worried about the drive but by now I was accustomed to the curves and the incline. It is a marble town and is high in the mountains. We wander a bit and buy a few souvenirs. My younger son picks out some wine which turns out to be really bad, although the bottle was pretty.
On the way back to Naxos we drive to Stravos where you can see the Aegean Sea on both sides of the island and then on to Panagia Drosiani which is among the oldest churches in Greece. There are faded frescos inside and you really have the feeling of being somewhere special.
We had wanted to go to Melanes to see the kouros but we are facing the wrong direction. We decide to head back with the intention of visiting the next day.
We ordered dinner in again (Maros which was great too) and ate on the roof top. My sons, my brother in law who is a lawyer, and I then walk back to the car rental place to see what the damage is. They do not have an estimate yet and I give them my cell phone number. They are much nicer to us this time.

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Day 7
Today we hiked Mt. Zas. We take the church route which is the easier and more used route. However, I would not say it was easy. It is not as long as the hike from Oia to Fira but much more difficult because it is mostly up. My youngest son with the hurt foot is better today and insists on doing it too.

We see fences made of stacked stones as we ascend that must be pastures for farmers. It takes us two hours to go up and an hour to go down. My husband and I have low hiking boots on while the rest of our party is in tennis shoes. I like having the extra ankle support as the path is over uneven rocks at times. The view from the top is magnificent. On the way down, we encounter some goats. I stop to take pictures and the rest of my party continues. I start hiking again and can’t figure out where I am. I start to panic and then I see some people above me and call to them. They wait for me and show me where the path is.

After we descend, we decide to go to the beach and to not go see the kouros. I am very disappointed as I really wanted to see them but we really haven’t been to the beach to swim and everyone is tired and hungry. We go to the beach we found two days ago—the man at the desk at our hotel called it the no name beach. Basically, we tried to find Agios Pokopios Beach and got lost and ended up at the other end (nearer to Naxos town) where there is not much development. He told us the water was deeper and colder there and he is right. The sand is beautiful and the mountains in the background are magnificent but the water is much colder than in Santorini and I would guess than other places in Naxos. Ironically, I chose Naxos to visit because of its beautiful beaches but in the end we spent very little time swimming.
Before dinner, I go with my sons to settle the bill for the ATV. They had called while I was driving to the beach and I was relieved to hear that the estimate was for 1205 Euros which is far less than I had feared. They are happy too and I manage to negotiate an agreeable division of cost between them while we were at the beach.

We clean up and go to Metaxi Mas in the old town for our last dinner. It is very charming and the food is great. Afterwards, a couple of us buy a few souvenirs. I find myself wishing we had spent more time exploring the old town. I actually think it is nicer than Apiranthos and the prices are lower. I wonder why we always seem to want to see the things that are not where we are staying.

Nafplio and Athens next.

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Day 8
We get to the airport way too early considering that it is so small that you can’t even go through security until you are the next flight because that is all the space there is for waiting. We end up sitting outside and watch the next plane come in. People walk off of it to the locked door where we are waiting. We think they don’t know what they are doing but then someone comes and unlocks the door. They never go through the airport building.

Finally, we are the next flight and go through security. Something on me, probably my sandals sets the alarm off. The security guy takes a look at me and tells me to just keep on going-“that you don’t look like a terrorist". We walk out to the prop plane and load. The flight itself is smooth and easy and once again I am so glad that I spent a little extra for a flight rather than taking another ferry.
We are met by Athens Car Rental and quickly fill out all the paper work. The representative takes us to a parking lot and shows us the cars. We had emailed them the day before asking if we could switch the van we had reserved for two small automatic cars. We end up with one automatic and one manual. The manual takes diesel and as it turns out, get twice the gas millage of the automatic. I ask for a map but he doesn’t have one. I have never rented from anyone who doesn’t give you a map but he assures us the roads are well marked. We should have gone back into the airport and got one. We ask where to return the car and he says departures 1, red line which is actually red lane but we don’t realize it then. We are anxious to get going and hope it will be clear when we return.

We then drove in two cars to Corinth canal which is an amazing engineering feat. We had some quick food at a touristy place on side of road and then took off for Nafplio.

From there things went wrong. My husband drove back towards Athens (the wrong way) and even took the toll road which means he could not turn around forever. I followed him even though I knew he was wrong. We turned around and then he was going so slow and I was pretty fed up with him at that point so I passed him. The speed limit was 130 and he was going 90. But we went the wrong way when the road divided. I had not studied the map like I had on the islands and without a map from the rental agency we were driving a bit blind. My son started using the map in the guide book and we managed to get to Nafplio.

Upon arrival, I called the housekeeper who was supposed to meet us to let us into the house rental. She told us to go to the town square. As it turns out there are a lot of town squares. We kept getting directions to different places and then a nice Greek young woman who my daughter talked to took us under her wing. I don’t quite understand what was going on but it was another 45 minutes until we found the house. My feet were killing me. I had sandals on that I had not intended to walk around in for an hour and a half. One thing I did not consider was how much more difficult it could be to find a private place than a hotel. In the U.S. lock boxes for rental houses are common.

My husband wisely left me at the house while the rest went to get the luggage. My nerves were shot. I recovered enough by the time they got back to go and get take out to eat in the garden.

House was old and quirky but had the only dishwasher and washer and dryer of our trip. It was up 67 steps which you have to haul up your luggage but it means a very nice view from the garden. The upstairs and downstairs do not connect and there is no way to leave the upstairs door unlocked. The shower downstairs is just the whole room. No stall or curtain just with a drain in the middle. We soak some toilet paper before getting the hang of removing everything. Upstairs is a bath tub with a sprayer. I remark to my youngest about the showers and he comments that he would not want to change them; it is part of the fun of visiting Greece.

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What a wonderful trip report, I am really enjoying it! More please!
We are taking out first RS tour next year! Yes, you guessed it, Greece!

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Thanks for the encouragement. Here is some more:

Day 9

I wake up early and decide to try to buy some food for breakfast as it was Sunday when we arrived and nothing was open. I go into a hotel and get directions to a supermarket that does not open until 8. I find it and then see some places opening down the street and get directions to a nearby bakery where I buy rolls and bread. It opens at 5:30 am so I return several mornings for fresh bakery goods. I sit on the curb and wait for the supermarket to open, watching the children arriving at school. Naplio seems much more like a real town where people live their lives and tourists just visit. The old town is very dedicated to tourists but English is not as widely spoken as in the islands we visited. I think a lot of the tourists are Greeks from Athens.

With what I bought at the grocery store and bakery, we have a feast to rival the breakfasts we had at the Kymata in Naxos. We debate about what to do for the day and decide to go to Epidaurus this morning and the town beach in the afternoon. It is to be in the high 90s each day we are in Nafplio. It is the first week of June.

Much to my surprise, since it was 10 am before we arrived, Epidaurus is not crowded. The theater is magnificent to behold. It cannot be adequately captured in pictures. We climb to the top where there is shade and a wonderful view. My older son had a camera and a go pro that could take wide angled pictures. The rest of our group have phones. It looks a bit like a photo shoot for a magazine. Some tour buses arrive but none of them go further than the main floor. We watch them. Some do speeches which we hear every word of.

We go the museum which we find rather interesting. Rick Steves describes it as as a dusty old school museum but this is our first museum since arriving in Greece. We then walk out of the site only to see people in another fenced area we did not see. Someone who came out told us that people have been going in the exit door. We have tickets so we decide to try it but get caught. The police blow their whistles at us and tell us to enter in a different place. We decide to not walk all the way in again and go back to Nafplio.

We have lunch at and spend the afternoon at the town beach. It is very clean and attractive, although pretty small. It is a rocky beach and I am glad for my water shoes. The prices at the café on the water are a bit higher than we had been paying but we get use of the chairs out of it too. We decide to try to go on a tour of a winery tomorrow after visiting Mycenae and Nemea so I call from a changing booth to a winery I had information on to see if it is possible. I actually am able to negotiate the menu to get to the right person and schedule a tour for 2pm.

We go out to dinner that night and my older son decides, against my advice, to order steak. The waiter assured him it was very good but when it arrives, it looks steamed rather than grilled. He wanted to send it back but was persuaded that his idea of a steak was a very American one. He eats it rather grumpily.

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Day 10

We are at Mycenae by 9:15 am but the tour buses have already arrived. Still, the lion entrance to Mycenae with its giant walls is quite a sight to behold. We take pictures and then enter where the graves were discovered. Three in our group then proceed to read every sign and discuss it while the rest of us have no such patience in learning what mostly a few remains once were. My youngest son and I find the cistern. I have brought a head light for the occasion as I didn’t want to have to have one of my hands occupied with my cell phone flashlight. We go all the way to the bottom. It is nice and cool down there and we have no desire to go back to the hot ruins. Others in our group find us and I share my head lamp. Suddenly, we realize we have been at Mycenae for almost two hours and have a two o’clock appointment for the winery and have not yet been to Nemea.

I text the stragglers that they can stay and meet us at the winery but they rather reluctantly come with us. It is the first time on the trip that we haven’t waited for the slowest person to finish but I really want to go to Nemea. I became very interested in it because it was discovered in my life time—in the 1970s and even ordered a video from a website on the excavations.

We drive some very back roads that my oldest son’s off line maps takes us on to the door of the ancient stadium. For 300 years Nemea was in the four year rotation of athletic events, much like Olympia. My kids all pretend to be racing in the stadium for pictures. The woman at the ticket booth tells us we have to go see the temples and she is right.

Some of the temple has been reconstructed so it is much easier to imagine what it would have looked like 2000 plus years ago. And just as noteworthy, is the modern (1980s) air conditioned museum which we did not have enough time to spend in. It was extremely well done and the air conditioning was more than appreciated.

Later both of my sons tell me they liked Nemea better than Mycenae. I explain again the historical importance of Mycenae but I understand. I think a guide would have helped bring Mycanae to life but I think we would have had to have come with a tour group which we would not have liked very much. Unlike in Akrotiri, I saw no signs for guides.

We arrive after a quick lunch at the winery a few minutes late. A young woman, who introduces herself as an Oenologist. She was born in Las Vegas but moved to Greece when she was two. She was from Athens and I found myself wondering about the life of a young urbanite in this rather remote location. She asked us whether we were visiting other wineries and when we told her no, she said too bad, because the Cooperative was about quantity while other wineries were about quality. We found this to be an interesting statement which likely reflected English being a second language. Later, after the wine tasting, we agreed that we liked the wine very much and perhaps we were not sophisticated enough for the “better” wineries.

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Day 10 continued

The tour involved going into various sections of the production facility in a way that would not have happened in the states. At one point, we walk through the ware house to where the wine is bottled. It is not operational. We struggle to understand why but the best we could discern was there was enough wine bottled in the warehouse so there was no need to bottle more. We could not imagine this happening in the U.S. At one side, we see men opening boxes and looking at the wine bottles and sealing them up again. We are told they are double checking wine going to the U.S. It doesn’t seem very efficient.

The actual wine tasting takes place in a room off the warehouse. We all like the Nemea special Agiorgitiko the best. The Agiorgitiko grape is specific to Nemea and by legend is the result of Hercules first labor of slaying the Nemean Lion-the blood made the grapes red. We buy a number of bottles which amazingly are only 4 Euros as well as a couple of the little dryer 7 Euro Reserve. It is 3 pm when we leave and it appears that the winery is closing for the day.

We drive south of Nafplio to Tolo to the beach for the rest of the day. There is nice sand there but I am not impressed by the area itself. While Rick Steves says it is the best beach of all around Nafplio, the changing stations have no doors on them and there is some trash in the water. There are no restrooms. It all looks rather run down but still we are charged 4 Euros like in the nice beach in Naxos for chairs. The boys go exploring and find a beach bar to enjoy a couple beers. They end up much more positive about Tolo than the rest of us.

We talk of pizza for dinner but by the time we get back to Nafplio, I am exhausted from touring and driving. I go back with my youngest son and my brother in law to Mitato Souvlaki down the stairs from our place where we had gyros and salads the first night we arrived for take out to eat in the garden. The rest say they do not want gyros but end up buying gyros later anyway. There was some grumpiness about not having the services of a hotel desk to guide them to somewhere else to eat. There were lots of guide books with recommendations but apparently no one wanted to read them.

Day 11

My youngest son really wanted to climb the 999 steps of the Palamidi Fortress and I agree to leave at 7:30 am with him to avoid the heat. I told the rest of our group that we were doing this and that they were welcome to join. I am surprised when we leave the house at 7:45 am with all seven of us.

My husband and I had done the stair master at the YMCA in preparation for this climb. As a result, it really wasn’t that hard and the views were wonderful.

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Day 11 continued

Everyone in our party loved the Fortress and for several it was their favorite site of our trip. It has history and beauty all rolled into one place. It is also largely intact so it did not require as much imagination as some places we visited. Of course, it was built in the 1770s which is comparatively recent. We found it interesting that the Venetians were building fortresses at about the same time as the U.S. was being settled. The fortress is actually huge and we managed to spend the entire morning exploring. It was never crowded. More people, ironically, were coming up as we were going down, even though it was approaching noon and the temperatures were heating up.

We go get pizza for lunch, since we did not have it last night. We go to Pizza Alpha which is recommended in Rick Steve’s book. We sit in Kolokotronis Park which under the trees is actually quite pleasant. After lunch, four of us go to Nafplio’s Archeological Museum while the other three go back to the house.

We had not had time to see the museum at Mycenae so I am particularly interested in those displays. A tour group comes in so we move to the second floor to avoid them. After awhile, I decide to leave and go back and rest a bit. My feet are hurting. I buy a gelato on the way. My two sons are leaving for the walk to Karathona Beach as I return. We had spotted the path while up in the fortress that morning.

After the rest of the museum group return, my daughter, her husband, and I head out to walk to Karathona Beach. My husband is exhausted and wants to lay down. His brother kindly offers to wait for him.

The walk is gorgeous and partly shaded for the first part. We find the two boys part way there jumping off rocks into the water. My oldest son informs me that according to his off line map, it is still a mile to the beach. It is now hot and I am tired of walking so I pick up the pace.

We finally arrive and it is really is a lovely spot. The sand is not is nice as Tolo but it is clean and quiet. The chairs are only 2 Euros to rent and there is a snack stand and bathrooms. There are a few campers near the water. My husband and brother eventually join us after I convince them to drive.

I drive the car back and let them walk back which turns out to be one of my husband’s favorite activities in Greece. The sun was much lower for the return and thus less hot.

It is our last night in Nafplio and I had promised my daughter that we would go to the restaurant Rick Steve’s guide says has flaming saganaki (Mezedopoleio O Noulis). It turns out the flaming version was invented in Greek town in Chicago and is not a Greek original, although her favorite. But I look online and find that it is closed on Wednesday while the guidebook says it is closed on Monday. We end up at Aiolos which is was recommended by the tour guide we had at the winery the day before and is also in his book.

We arrive and it looks full but soon two tables are moved out of the restaurant and onto the pedestrian path. The food was good but my two sons were making jabs at each other so not my most favorite meal. By the time we leave, all the restaurant’s tables were outside.

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We were in Greece at the same time. We took a 14 day tour (not a Rick one) and thought about writing it up but not sure if I should since it was not independent or a RS tour. I have some things to say since it was my first ever tour. I enjoyed reading and reliving moments of my trip since we went to similar places. You are brave to drive in Greece. I got nervous being in a bus being driven. The sights are unbelievable, wish we had done it your way.

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If brave is doing something despite being scared, I was brave! Realize I had only intended to drive in Naxos. I thought we would have a van and my husband would drive the rest of the time! See the next entry for some of the "challenges" of driving.

Day 12
We leave about 10 am to return the cars to the Athens Airport. I agree to follow my husband. All goes well until I get behind someone at a toll booth who takes forever to find the 1.80 Euros to feed the machine. I lost my husband. We thought we caught up with him (he has a white car like half the cars on the road) but it turns out not to be him. In the mean time, I follow the wrong car towards Athens instead of the airport. The tollways are easy to drive but because you are going much faster, you have little time to think.

We realize at some point that I am going the wrong way and get off at an exit to get gas. I am not exactly cool as a cucumber about the prospect of trying to figure our way to the airport. I am trying not to panic. My older son texted me to try the GPS on my phone which thankfully works. We set off but it is not clear how to get back on the road and we end up going the wrong way down some road where there are several police officers. They speak English fluently and kindly direct us the correct way and with my younger son at the helm of the GPS we make our way back. It is not the way we came so I am very nervous until I see the international airport sign on the road. It was apparently a short cut.

We arrive at the airport and try to figure out where we are supposed to leave the rental car. We find departure 1 but do not see anywhere legal to park—there are people waiting and dropping people off and no parking signs everywhere. We circle through the airport twice and then decide to just park the car somewhere. We go back to the lot where we got the car and park. I decide I am not moving the car no matter what—someone else can do it.

My husband, brother in law and older son have meet up with the representative from Athens Car Rental and find us in the parking lot. I apologize to the representative of ACR for returning the car to the parking lot and explain I could not figure out where he wanted it returned. He chastising me telling me that my husband figured it out, why couldn’t I. I snapped back at him, “because he is much smarter than I.” The representative then back tracked and claimed he was just kidding. I tried to calm down. It really was the only time I lost my cool in the two week trip.

We made our way back to the airline terminal and my husband told me there was more bad news: the metro was on strike and not running. I left my luggage with the others and from an information booth and found out where the X95 bus was located. It does pay to have done your research. We crossed to that area and the taxi line was unimaginably long. I found where the bus tickets were sold while the others stood in the taxi line. It was leaving in 15 minutes and we decide to take the bus to Syntagma Square instead.

It is crowded and half of us are standing. I thought express meant it did not stop but it is not the case. 45 minutes or so later we arrive on the square. It is blistering hot. It is 2:00 pm and we have a tour arranged for 4:00 pm and we are a 25 minute walk away. We decide to taxi to the air bnb which we accomplish easily as there are taxis lined up on the opposite side of the street.
We get the key from the restaurant next to apartment complex where the air bnb is located and for the first time on this trip, have no problems accessing our accommodations. It is airy and well equipped. Very pleasant. I have emailed our guide and we agree to meet 15 minutes later and a couple of us go out to find some lunch to bring back while my husband and brother go looking for a pharmacy. My husband has pink eye but is able to purchase eye drops from an English speaking pharmacist.

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Day 12 continued

We are a little shocked by how much higher the prices are here than in the places we have already visited. A gyro was 2.4 Euros in Nafplio and at the restaurant next door it is 10 Euros. We end up with some pretty mediocre sandwiches from a place a few doors down. Later we learn that prices are much higher close to the acropolis and our apartment is only two blocks from the road in front of it. We meet our guide.

Aristotle is fabulous. He answers every question and tells us lots of stories. Everyone likes him because talking with him is much easier than trying to read a guide book or signs. We arrive at the Acropolis at 4:30 pm and there still are a fair number of people milling around, more than at Mycenae. Aristotle tells us that this is nothing, that there were far more people at 8 am when he was here with a different group. I would definitely recommend a late afternoon visit because the weather gets cooler as you get more tired rather than the other way around.

We move on to the ancient agora which some of our group loved more than the acropolis. There is a part that is reconstructed which Aristotle is clearly disapproving of. He tells us, in response to questions, that he is Ok with what they did at Nemea because they used the original materials but here they did not. I am clearly not an archeologist or a purist. Frankly I enjoy the reconstructed part because it makes it easier to imagine all the rest.

At the end of this part of the tour, my husband is exhausted and all but my youngest son and I go back with him to the apartment. Aristotle takes us to the flea markets where I buy some strawberries and cherries for 1.13 Euros for a Kg. I am in heaven. He tells us about Hadrian’s library and a few other sites and walks us through the Plaka. I am surprised at my youngest son’s interest in everything.

My son decides he wants to buy some beer at a neighborhood grocery store rather than in our pricey neighborhood. We ask for “supermarket” a number of times and end up in one in the Thissio area. It is cheaper than any other market we have been to and we buy as much as we can carry—getting tubs of yogurt for breakfast, cheese, frozen spinach pie, diet coke for me, and beer for him.

We are walking back and I realize suddenly that we are not walking along the Acropolis as we thought but instead along Filopappos Hill. It does pay to study the maps ahead of time (look what happened when I did not driving to and from Athens!) I know the road by the park goes far south of where we want to go. We try the GPS again and it takes us on a path through the park and back to the road in front of the Acropolis and back to the apartment.

We end up walking to a neighborhood restaurant listed in Rick Steve’s book. We bring my husband, who did not want to go, a salad to go with the spinach pie I had heated up. The restaurant is fairly warm but there is only a table for 2 outdoors so we eat indoors. The food is already prepared in a glass case. The food is reasonably good but not the best we have had. It is fast and we soon go back and crash for the night.

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Day 13

My older son wants to go to Meterora. He has seen pictures of it on the internet and it seems more enticing to him than further exploring Athens. The boys are also in a fairly tight room in our air bnb after having lots of space in Nafplio—they each had their own room and there also was a room for “technology”. I had intended to let one of them have the living room if they wanted to spread out but it seemed more important to let my husband who does not feel well still the room by himself. So I sleep in the living room instead.

We leave the apartment with my son waiting to hear from Athens Car Rental. We walk to Hadrian’s Arch which not as impressive as I expected (much smaller) and the Temple of Olympian Zeus which was. My husband forgot his pass from yesterday but it seems pointless to return to our place. We decide as he buys an individual ticket to think of it as donating to the Greek government which could use the money. The site is fairly intact and you can actually see the Acropolis from it. We think that our older son would have loved it. He texted us though that he had a car and was going to drive to Meterora and spend the night.

We spend the rest of the morning seeing many of the remaining ancient sites, including the Roman Forum, the Tower of the Winds, and Hadrian’s library. We had heard that the metro to the airport wasn’t running again but it looked like online that the rest of the metro was operational. We stop in the Monastiraki station to check and see the hoards of people coming and going. We decide to have lunch and then take the metro to the National Archeological Museum. My younger son, daughter and her husband all have to fly home tomorrow so there are some hard decisions about what to see to be made. We spent a long time learning about the Acropolis yesterday so I decide that it made the most sense to try and see what was found in Mycenae and Akritori. My son-in-law is still holding out for both museums.

Rick Steves book was perfect for our two hour visit to the museum. I tried following his tour in order but my son did not want to return to the beginning. So we just went room to room and invariably what our eyes were naturally drawn to was what was highlighted in the guidebook. The gold from Mycanae was my favorite exhibit.

My feet are killing me by this point and I am ready to return to our apartment. My younger son wants to go shopping in the Monastiraki area. My brother in law who has been to Athens a number of times agrees to go with him. The rest of us take the subway back to the Acropolis station and walk the short distance to the apartment.

After they return from shopping, my brother in law (who seems to have endless energy) goes with my son in law for a short visit to the Acropolis Museum. They are to meet us at Mani Mani of our last meal together in Greece.

The food is fabulous as everyone says. My son has rooster which he says tastes amazing. My husband and son share a bowl of soup which the rest of us sample and decide we simply must have. I had some pork tenderloin and my daughter has what must be at least her seventh meal of lamb. We have a bottle of wine from Nemea. The floors in the restaurant are wooden which I don’t think I have seen anywhere else. The food is sophisticated without being too different (we like traditional Greek cooking).

My son goes out after dinner to spend his last Euros and comes back with several purchases and more tales. My husband’s family were Pontiff Greeks from what is now Turkey. One of the shop keepers told my son how his name had been spelled and told him what the traditional dance of the region was. My son tries to bargain in the shops and when he offered 10 Euros for something marked 12, he was told it would be 8 since he was a Greek American!

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Wow, I am so enjoying this and I can’t wait to hear about Meterora, as that is one of the places I would like to see that is not on our RS Greece tour next year.

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Day 14
My daughter and her husband are picked up by the driver arranged by our air bnb at 7 am. My husband, son, and I then leave to walk to see the stadium which he wants to see before flying back home. We arrive at 7:30 am and I tell him I don’t think we can actually get into the site. But then we see some young women in running shorts buying tickets so we get in line behind them. We find out later from the women that the stadium opens at 7:30 for people wanting to run the track. My son says he overhears the man who lets us in give some grief to the person who sold us tickets because we aren’t dressed to run. But we get in and essentially have the place all to ourselves which is an unique experience. The stadium really is beautifully designed. We get back in plenty of time for my son to catch his ride to the airport and we set off with my brother in law to enjoy our last day in Greece.
We climb to the top of Filopappos Hill and enjoy the view. You can see the hordes of people at the Acropolis at 10 am. There certainly were far less when we were there two days earlier at 4:30 pm. It is hot even at 10 am and we do not linger too long. We end up wandering through the Plaka, buying some souvenirs and gifts before walking back towards Monastiraki for lunch. After eating, we go to the Acropolis Museum.

It simply is the most well designed museum I have ever been in. There is glass everywhere. It is built over an early Christian settlement and the glass floors allow you to view it. You can see the Acropolis through the glass walls and Parthenon Marbles are in the order they originally were at the Acropolis. There are blank spaces for those that are in the museum in London! The top two floors have artifacts related to the Acropolis and the bottom floors have artifacts from earlier times. I very much enjoyed the first two floors but I am tired and the rest of the museum is not as enticing to me. I decide to go back to the apartment and crash. My husband and brother stay a bit longer.

Our older son returns from Meterora with pictures and stories. He has some amazing pictures and said that all of the monasteries were open on Saturday. Sadly, he had to leave the drone he tried to fly in the mountains. Apparently, it crashed into a rock and he could not retrieve it, given the terrain. He said he got half way but felt he could not go further without risking his life. He had not down loaded his pictures from earlier, so he lost those as well. By the time he is telling us about it, he is pretty philosophical about it. I felt especially bad about him losing the footage he took at the fortress in Nafplio.

He said the driving there was quite difficult and expensive. It is mostly a toll way and a pricey one at that. He said that people were going much faster than the speed limit and getting annoyed at him for not doing so also. And then on the secondary roads, the drivers were impatient and trying to go as fast as they did on the toll roads. My brother-in-law who had driven to Meterora had initially convinced us not to drive in Greece because of his experience doing so. Fortunately, driving to Nafplio was not this difficult. I drove the speed limit at most and people were not flying past me.

My son and husband head up to the top of Fillopappou Hill while my brother-in-law and I go for some take out to eat on the roof deck of the apartment we are staying in. My brother-in-law impresses me with his knowledge of how to get around from three or four previous trips to Athens. We go into Dio Dekares Oka which was recommended by the owners of our air bnb. There is a case with already prepared dishes which we choose among and sit down to wait.

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Day 14 continued

We ask the waitress whether one salad would feed four of us and she replies “how would I know?” We order two but end up not touching the second. We notice she has the same attitude towards the customers in the restaurant and my brother-in-law tells me that “Greek women are spicy!” The man who took our order comes back and asks us if we like tzatziki sauce and we say yes. He comes back again and tells us that it is very good and “it is my gift to you”. We aren’t sure what prompted him to do this but certainly enjoy his gift.

The food is splendid. It was very inexpensive and is some of the best food we had in Greece. It was more traditional than the food we had the night before at Mani Mani but just as good. We listen to a band play nearby as we watch the sun fade over the acropolis. We drink a bottle of wine we bought at the winery we visited at Nemea. It is a fitting ending to a fabulous trip.

Final thoughts:

Location is everything. I choose centrally located places to stay and it worked out wonderfully. Consider, if you have a group, choosing places that have gardens, balconies, roof top decks where you can gather. Otherwise, you can end up, as I did the one night we did not have a gathering place, with everyone in one hotel room!

Consider technology needs. It is difficult to not use what you are used to back home. Five of us had t-mobile which has unlimited texting and free data (although 2G). We had wifi where we stayed. The texting was critical for us to coordinate and was what we were used to doing at home. The data saved me a couple of times when I used the GPS. Our older son downloaded maps that he used. In retrospect, since we had two cars, we should have two people do this. It worked really well.

Consider, at least with a group, splurging for a guide. We did in Athens and it was worth it. With a group, people have different levels of interests and I found that a guide can bridge that. Otherwise, you have some people reading every sign while others move much faster.

Plan, plan, plan and then enjoy!


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Loved the trip report Beth. You are an intrepid travellor. I cannot imagine driving, getting lost and remaining calm. I got two important nuggets from your report. Explore closer to where you are staying especially in Nxos and Santorini and Akrotiri lighthouse. We are planning to avoid Pyrgos or ancient Thira for the winding roads.

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Glad you enjoyed! Traveling pushes you which is one of the things I enjoy most about it.

On santorini, the drive to Pyrgos is not that bad. I kept going up to the monastery which was switch backs. You could stop in Pyrgos and see the town.