After six trips to Greece, and 17 islands, we had seen a lot of monasteries and archeological sites and beautiful scenery. But what we loved most was just being surrounded by Greekness ... the food, the people, and OK, yes, the scenery. So when a knee injury last spring threatened to cancel our upcoming, ambitious 7-island trip, we instead decided to slow WAY down and visit just four islands in four weeks: Naxos, Amorgos, Antiparos and Milos. This trip may be too slow for some, but these four islands would also make a good 2 1/2 or 3-week trip, as they are well-connected. They are all very different, but each offered a wonderful experience.
Some brief notes about restaurants on these islands. Most open for dinner by 6:30 or 7:00 pm (although some are open all day). And almost all of them have some outdoor seating (usually covered by an awning). If you eat at 7 (as we did early in our trip) you could be eating alone. Greeks eat late. By the end of our trip, we were dining at 9 or 10, surrounded by people, eating under the stars. Way more fun. And almost every night, our restaurant gave us a free dessert or after-dinner drink ... another example of the famous Greek hospitality.
Greeks seem to be addicted to frappes -- a foam-covered iced coffee drink. People walk around drinking them from to-go cups. If you order one in a cafe, it is often served with a small piece of cake or cookie. We spent many hours sitting with our frappes, watching the world go by.
In Naxos and Antiparos, we found traditional Greek restaurants where they cook daily specials ... big pans of food (moussaka, pastitsio, stifado) that they display near the kitchen. You can walk over and see what looks good. Some of our most interesting dinners were in these restaurants, where we would ask them to put together a platter of small portions of 4 or 5 dishes for us to sample. At To Elliniko in Naxos, the owner walked by our table, looked at our plates and said, "You are eating like Greeks!"
For a good, light dinner in a taverna, order a salad along with 4 or 5 types of mezes, or appetizers ... sardines, zucchini balls, sagnaki (fried cheese), etc. And ouzo, of course.
Now some details about the trip:
We arrived in Athens in late afternoon on May 11, so we spent the night at St. Thomas B&B near the airport. They picked us up at the airport, welcomed us with an ouzo by the pool at the B&B, and we walked down the street to a taverna for dinner. Great place to stay near the airport. Easy, effortless.
NAXOS: The next morning (May 12) we flew to the island of Naxos for a week at Studios Kalergis, right on St. George Beach. We made the great choice of a ground floor studio with a private patio. Maybe 20 steps from the sand and free sunbeds belonging to the restaurant next door (I think they charge for sunbeds later in the season). Breakfast was not included but we had a kitchenette so we got supplies at the market and ate on our lovely patio. We loved Naxos. Large island with lots to do and see, both in town and around the island. Weather was hazy & windy at the beginning of our week, then a day of rain, and ended with perfect blue skies and 80 degrees. The sea was a bit chilly for swimming, but no crowds anywhere. Favorite restaurants: To Elliniko and Scirroco, both near the "Square", and Boulamatsis, at the far end of downtown from our beach. On our last night, we walked down the beach and found Flisvos Sportscenter. We had passed it on our morning walks and it looked deserted. But we discovered it has a hotel, restaurant and bar, with a front "porch" with "couches" where you can enjoy an ouzo and watch the sunset! They have big pillows on the sand, instead of beach chairs, and rent jet skis and windsurfers.