MYKONOS GREECE…eat, seek, ride, repeat!
The last island in our Big Fat Greek Island Escape trilogy just HAD to be Mykonos and I don’t think it’s right to visit this Aegean archipelago and not include a trip around this iconic island haven! MB (Monsieur Bleu) and I were gradually making our way back to Athens and then eventually to France and Mykonos was one of the closest to the mainland. With its much photographed windmills, painted stone pathways and lapping waters of Little Venice, we were definitely in for a joyous three day/four night treat!
We took the 50 minute ferry ride over to Mykonos from Paros on yet another windy and drizzly day, each of us silently praying that the weather improved and that this last island fling would leave us with enviable chocolate-brown tans for our return to chilly French soil.
I had visited Mykonos twice before, once in the height of summer with another crazy Australian/ Hungarian girlfriend back in 1998 when I was a broke and irrepressible 26yr old, and then again when I was 35 and much more calm and responsible! This was to be my third time and MB’s first and the quick trip was lovely and full of coupledom fun from day one…
Arriving into the Port of Mykonos alongside a group of dazed and confused looking weary travellers, we were faced with the dilemma of how to make our way to Mykonos Town as it appeared that road taxis were few and far between and boarding a little water taxi bus (Venice it truly was) was the cheapest, fastest and most reliable option!
Plowing our way through the choppy water for the ten minute journey, we were very excited to be there and I was reminiscing the heck out of it, pointing and exclaiming the entire way and bossily ordering MB to “look at the windmills and the Venetian style setting!” as we approached our destination. Poor guy, I did this for the entire time and he never once told me to put a sock in it!
Yet again, we had rented a typical ‘greek style’ blue and white apartment from AirB&B right in the heart of Mykonos Town. The location was perfect as we had direct access to all the great nighttime haunts and a ‘centre court seat’ view from our terrace so we could spy on bored looking shopkeepers and frazzled tourists all whilst hidden behind unruly clumps of cascading grape vines! The maze of laneways through the town gave us a crash course in navigation and we were fortunate that our place was directly above a busy little jewellery store and one street back from the water. However, we did take a few wrong turns on the first day, getting lost and disorientated and only by luck and sheer determination eventually found our way back home, simultaneously discovering a wonderful bakery AND some chic little restaurants along the way! …”getting lost is never a waste of time”…
Not ones to mess with a good recipe, we followed our usual island routine and made finding a scooter/motorbike rental place (not far from the famous windmills on the edge of Mykonos Town) our first priority! So on the first morning, armed with a glossy paper map and a lot of enthusiastic expectations for this upcoming expedition, we headed for the beach to hopefully get a head start on those tans as the sun was out and shining down upon us!
We rode south in the direction of all the popular and well known beaches and decided to make our first stop Agios Ioannis (one of the preferred beaches for celebrities). However, some of you might know it better as the picturesque beach at the heart of the 1989 iconic rom com chick flick Shirley Valentine! We had been good little ‘travel students’ and had done our homework research, actually watching this sad and funny but strangely moving film prior to our arrival here in Mykonos! I was itching to visit this stretch of sand to see for myself just how much it had changed over the years, and if it was still popular as a minor tourist attraction for the over 40’s who actually appreciated Pauline Collins’ and Tom Conti’s memorable portrayal of a holiday fling love tryst on this Aegean Island paradise!
I was in shock when we arrived, not because it had changed or was awful in anyway, but because WE WERE THE ONLY PEOPLE THERE! No Joke…
The little beach was secluded and totally deserted, the ‘rock’ and other craggy boulders from the movie still visible and accessible with perfect, crystal clear water washing over them. The little blue and white hotel from the film, Manoulas Beach Hotel is still there, but has undergone a major facelift rendering it sadly unrecognisable (I much preferred the quaint, original version), but I’m sure it does a fantastic trade during the summer. The restaurant and bar from the film was still standing too, and has also undergone a chic renovation having been re named The Hippy Fish. Unfortunately it was already closed for the season, and I had envisioned having a luxurious lunch there for our premier jour in Mykonos, but a splash and a stroll along the water’s edge combined with a few happy snaps to capture the moment and an amateur reenactment of the last scene of the film had to suffice! “Goodbye Shirley, Shirley Valentine”…
From there, MB and I rode our way along the twisting sea roads towards Ornos Beach, a tiny, flashy spot with loads of bistros (many closed already) and a chic town centre. We stopped and had a quick look before deciding to return another day, and headed for Platis Gialos (where I had stayed previously)! It is a very lovely area and the beach is small but full of sun loungers with a few restaurants and upmarket boutique hotels dotted along the shore. Of course it had been modernised since my last visit (I described in detail to MB what it ‘used to look like’…lucky man) and was quite windy, so we elected to try to find a more sheltered beach for our first day out as we had had quite enough wind in Paros thank you very much!
Moving on, MB took the role as Captain for the day and puttered down a lost and beaten goat track and there we discovered a tiny little local beach haunt called Paraga! There was no wind here (thank God) and it had one little taverna open and a few chairs for hire. I think everyone there that day had the same notion of finding solace from the elements as it appeared to be a meeting place for families and some local backpackers who had the brilliant idea of camping and making a bbq lunch under the pine trees! We plonked ourselves down on a patch of sand and finally took our first swim in crystal clear, cool Mykonos water. (In hindsight, it was lucky we chose to spend the day there and enjoy some relaxing downtime, as the next three days turned into a never ending blustering squall of rain showers and strong gusts of wind that made us tour the island on two wheels instead of cooking ourselves to a crisp!)
Not another greek salad? I hear you ask. Indeed there was, as hunger reigned supreme and we dived mouth first into yet another delicious array of Hellenic specialties accompanied by complimentary shots of Ouzo at Tasos Taverna…the sole place open for business! Octopus, salad, olives, tzatziki and of course…more free almond and lemon cake… left us satiated enough to collapse into a food coma for a few hours in the sun and make friends with the resident cat who strutted proudly along the beach, stopping for pats and cuddles before returning to his rightful place under the tables at the taverna and stalking the diners for morsels of food!
Keeping on the beach theme…Mykonos is well known as the Gay Party Island and its two main party beaches are Paradise and Super Paradise. Not far from Paraga, they can be reached by driving down long, steep and winding inland roads, past sheep farms and bizarre architecturally designed pigeon houses (which are unique to Mykonos). But these pumping and heaving rave like dance parties that once ignited the day and night with the electro-house beats from International DJ’s sets, causing trance like dance moves from wiry bikini clad supermodels, are nothing but a distant memory when you visit in late October!
When MB and I found eventually located Paradise Beach it was a bit sad and deflated. A few die hard tourists could be found wandering around the now empty bars or lying on the sand being whipped by cold winds and even a promise of continuous ‘Happy Hour Drinks’ from the one bar that was open couldn’t boost the spiralling mood!
We rode on towards Super Paradise, the star attraction of the dance party scene (it’s quite a feat to reach as its miles away from anywhere and hidden down roughly laid one way streets) and where I visited when I was 26, and I was not super surprised that it was completely shut up! The scuffed bamboo dance floors were now empty, the waterfront bars boarded up and just a few wretched remains of magnum champagne bottles could be found lying around and gathering dust in the corner of the once super exclusive and coveted VIP section of the Tropicana Beach Bar, one of the top in the world! The beach itself was completely deserted too and we were the only ones there (as usual) and I bored MB to death again by recounting
highlights from my past hedonistic days of jumping around half naked on this exact beach alongside the majority of the Gay/LGBTI community of Mykonos AND all whilst clutching a Piña Colada… what a skill! (I even gave him a demonstration)… Ah, those were the days!
Because the weather had decided to turn into autumn the few days we were there, our long sought after sun and beach break didn’t happen, so we used our time just cruising around the island and stopping for lunch or a massage at some of the other areas like Psarou and Ornos (all were quiet and winding down for the season), celebrity stalking the Kardashian’s holiday house and lazily investigating the network of paths that create the much photographed interior world of Mykonos Town!
Mykonos Town and Little Venice (named as such due to the position of its old, Venetian style buildings built in and along the water’s edge) is quite a large area to cover and quite tricky to navigate if you are directionally challenged like me! MB is used to sailing, so knowing his north from his southwest is child’s play…hence I follow him around these areas like a lost puppy! FYI: Saying this however, I managed quite well in Athens (strangely enough) and managed to locate a particular restaurant which we thought had been lost to us forever! I find my way home by remembering shops and eating places and here was no different as long as you didn’t rely on ‘the one with the blue door’!
We spent a lazy morning wandering around this beautiful area admiring the cosy cafés filled with groups of rotund greek men all sitting together and chatting about life, absentmindedly flicking ornate strings of worry beads or Komboloi, sipping on thimbles of coffee or ouzo with bored cats winding around their feet. Pretty little boutiques lined the alleyways, all squashed together, each with their own individual design and style, and ropes of Greek Blue Eyes stared out at us from above every doorway beckoning us to enter at our wallet’s peril! Huge salmon pink pelicans wander the streets here as well, calm and unperturbed by the constant clicks and flashes from iPhones capturing their magnificence. No wonder it is such a sought after holiday destination!
The first place I ever tried and tasted a traditional Yiros /Gyros (Greece’s culinary nod to the scabby kebabs of late night drunken cravings, but with attitude) was right here in Mykonos Town way back in 1998! My body is NOT a temple (no amount of hot yoga will ever purge the amount of rubbish that enters it) so deciding to re create my first experience and greedily indulge in this ‘fast food made in heaven’ was a treat for both of us! Local delicacies like these always taste better at the source anyway and MB and I hungrily lapped up this juicy treat, wrapped in warm puffy pita bread filled with thick greek yogurt and freshly grilled lamb and chicken (some crispy french fries wrapped in amongst the meat) and were happily satisfied for a bargain three euros!
We celebrated our 11th ‘together’ anniversary whilst on holiday here too and decided to go crazy, have a night on the town and run amok amongst the bars on the slippery steps of Little Venice. Whilst lost and looking for our apartment one day, we had fallen upon a gorgeous restaurant down a dead end street called Mamalouka and decided that a romantic candlelight dinner here would be a wonderful way to commemorate the occasion! We had a simple but flavoursome meal that night, accompanied by several generous glasses of heavy red wine whilst sitting amongst the beautiful Mykonian crowd, sheltered from the rain sprinkles by huge trellises of vines, lemon trees and hot pink bougainvillaea.
Afterwards we dared the crowded, stone banks of Little Venice’s precariously positioned bars and enjoyed some awesome cocktails and throbbing tunes by the resident DJ at Negrita, the most photographed bar in Mykonos. Chatting to locals and taking selfies, we acted like a couple of love sick teenagers on a first date and cut a rug on the dance floor, boogieing with the Greek Soccer team well into the night! It was such fun and the best night we’d had on the whole trip.
But the fun didn’t end here! On our way to the airport for our flight back to Athens on our final morning, we made a pit stop at the largest supermarket in Mykonos. I’m so glad we did as it was the BEST either of us had ever seen…
The size of a small city, it was crammed with produce from every country in the world (both packaged and fresh) and had a liquor section that would put Dan Murphy’s (Australia’s answer to a large wine and bottle shop) to shame. This is where the mega rich and famous go shopping for their night cap tipple of choice as it has specific shelves dedicated to magnums of every spirit, wine or champagne that your endless budget can afford! It was incredible. To top it off, there are movie screens everywhere playing music videos and a local DJ plays on the top floor every day and night during the summer season as this disco heaven is open 24/7…Hello! Embarrassingly, we just gaped and pointed at everything and ended up buying some greek chocolate and a groovy shopping bag as evidence we had been there and slunk away for our final flight feeling like a couple of poor old losers pretending to be cool!
WE HAD DONE IT! We might not have achieved the bronzed god and goddess looks we had envisioned, but had toured and explored three beautiful Greek Islands, all of them unique in style yet similar in their ties to ancient Cycladic ways. We had swum in jewelled seas, eaten our weight in octopus, greek salad and fetta, and ridden miles and miles of rugged and dusty roads. We had trodden kilometres of geometric pathways, drunk endless cups of coffee and patted prides of beautiful street cats. We had witnessed breathtaking sunsets, worshiped ancient ruins and admired clumps of untouched white washed villages. We had talked to locals, bought fruit and wine and said hundreds of kaliméra’s and yasou’s…but NOT ONCE, in the entire time, did we smash a bloody plate! Efcharistó Greece, we will be back…
…”Of all the books in the world, the best stories are found between the pages of a passport”…Anonymous