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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Traveling Greece - Athens and Greek Islands (Paros, Naxos, Vahti)

09/27/2009 - We landed at the airport in Athens and from there it was pretty easy to jump on the Athens Metro catch the BLUE line and head to the City Center.  Depending on where you want to go then you might have to switch lines to the RED line at the Syntagma Station or to the GREEN line at Monastiraki.  I actually found a pretty cool tool to plan a route on the Athens Metro which tells you which lines you need to take and the best thing about it is that it will estimate the travel time between 2 stations, so that you can plan appropriately.  It is located at the Athens Metro Website. We stayed in a small hostel called Dioskouros which was nothing special, relatively cheap, and had a great location with access to most of the sites.  We dumped our stuff and headed up to the Acropolis.  On our way in we found out that we had come on National Historical Day or something like that, so we lucked out that all of the sites were free and so were the museums.  Saved us some money which was great!  We headed up to the Parthenon and there are plenty of ruins to see around the Acropolis along with the Parthenon.  We were a little disappointed with the amount of scaffolding on the Parthenon which detracted a little from the beauty but, from what we were told you are pretty lucky if you hit a time when there isn't scaffolding since they are constantly renovating & restoring it. We then made our way down through Thissio Park where there were several other ruins.  Then we popped out into the Monastiraki Flea Market where they were selling just about anything you could think of and there were also several restaurants along the roads where you could sit outside and enjoy a meal.  We opted to find a small hole in the wall and pick up some cheap Gyros!  They were great and cheap. We then made our way back to the hostel through the Plaka area and were able to see all the shops and older part of the city.

For the top 10 things to do in Athens I recommend the Eyewitness Books as they have tons of great pictures and informaton.

09/28/2009 - We caught the Athens Metro to the Port of Pireaus and switched to the GREEN line and it took us about 20 minutes to get to the Port.  Once we arrived at the port we just went to the various Ferry lines and bought our ticket to Paros.  We opted to buy one of the cheaper tickets on one of the slower ferries.  The ferry was actually pretty  nice and included a Cafe, Restaurant, etc. and had airline type seats in various rooms where you could sit & watch TV or just do your own thing.  We hung out in the Cafe for a while which was open to the outside & gave us a view of the city of Athens.  After a couple of hours outside we moved to one of the rooms with seats and took naps for the rest of the journey.
Paros is a medium sized island in a group of islands called The Cyclades.  I have posted a map of the all the Greek islands below to give you an idea of where Paros and the other islands are with respect to each other.

When we arrived at the island at the Port city of Parikia we made our way over to our hostel which was only a short 10 minute walk up the coast.  We stayed in a place called Ampeli Studios.  It was a decent place to stay and not far from everything.  We then went up the street to rent some mopeds/scooters to cruise around the island.  There are plenty of places to rent them in Parikia.  Although we did have one place deny us rentals because we didn't have motorcycle endorsements on our drivers licenses.  There were plenty of other places that would rent to us without the endorsement though. We were able to work out a deal since it was the off season and got the mopeds for €8(Euros).  We then took off around the island, which you can easily make it around in one day. We made our way up to Naoussa, which was a small town that had a quite feel to it.  It was a good stop for a break and to just walk around for a little bit.  It is not a very commercial town but did have people working on their fishing boats and going about their normal day activities.  Here are a few pictures.
 From there we headed down the coast to a town called Piso Livadi, where we went to a beach called Pounda Beach.  It was supposedly one of the most popular and happening beaches although since it was the off season, we were almost the only people on the beach.  The water was warm, so we jumped in for a short swim. Here are a few pictures.  The beach was sandy and there was 5-10 feet of rocks when you first get into the water but once past them it is all sand.

From there we continued our trek around the island on the mopeds we briefly went to Aliki which had a similar type beach and then we made our way back up to Parikia. This was plenty to do in a day and if you want to relax more there are plenty of beaches where you can just take it easy. We stayed the night & then hopped the ferry in the morning to Naxos. Had we had more time there is a short 45min ferry over to the island of Antiparos where there are some caves that are a local attraction.

We arrived in Naxos which as we got off we started our walk to our hotel which was called Saint George Hotel.  The hotel was right on the beach of the Agios Georgios beach which is just south of the commercial part of the town of Naxos.  We got checked into our rooms that were actually pretty nice considering the price and location.  We then took a stroll out on the beach and then went looking for a place to rent some mopeds to cruise around the island on.  We didn't have to go too far before we found a rather large rental company and once again we were able to get out mopeds for about €8(Euros) per day.  We then jumped on the mopeds and headed south to check out some of the other beaches in the area. Just about 15-20 minutes south are some beautiful beaches and we ended up at the beach of Agios Prokopios.  This is a great place to lay out & the water is warm with an amazing view with extremely blue water.  We had lunch at one of the many local restaurants on the main street along the beach and then went for a swim.  We also cruised further south on the mopeds to check out some more of the beaches and found the further south you go the more secluded the beaches get and the less clothes they wear. We found a local scuba diving shop which is harder than we thought because according to the locals there are only 2 on the island.  The locals said that the reason that scuba diving is not very prominent on the islands is because it used to be prohibited until recently when they have opened it up for diving. We decided to do a dive with the Blue Fin Divers.  They were great people and more than willing to help us.  They are close to the beach but we did have to wear wet suits because it was a little chilly at the end of September.  The only downfall was we had to put our gear on and then walk down to the beach and then get in the water and swim out to the boat. Once we got to the boat, it was a 20-30 minute boat ride out to the dive site.  The dive site that we chose was full of arches and small caves that weren't too long that you could swim through.  There is not alot of marine life but, we did get to see a couple of eels and an octopus. 

We finished the day off with a beautiful sunset and then headed back to Naxos main strip by the port to finish the night off with some Gyros and just kind of bum around the shops in town.

The next day we went to see some of the sites around the island on the mopeds.  We went to Melanes where we were able to hike to some different Kouros statues and also some gardens. We saw alot of marble quarries up on the hills while driving around.  We then headed to the The Temple of Demeter where we spent some time wondering around the small site.  We then made our way off the beaten track to the Plaka beaches & founds ourselves riding on farm roads & dirt roads.  From there we headed north back to the beach of Agios Prokopios where we spent some time lounging around and then went back and caught the sunset at the beach of Agios Georgios by our hotel & then prepared to go catch our night ferry to Vathy.

- Vathy is located on the island of Samos and is actually the capital of the island. We only spent a morning at the Port in Vathy waiting for our ferry to Kusadasi, Turkey.  It was a quite little port in the morning but started to pick up some speed as we got ready to leave on our ferry.  Nice little port where we were able to catch a sunrise.

    Map Of Greek Islands