Saturday, August 30, 2014

My My Mykonos


Welcome back!

You may have read about my trips to Athens, followed by Santorini, but I'm most excited to tell you about my absolute favorite location of this four-part summer trip: Mykonos.

After discovering the wonder that Santorini isn't, I'm not gonna lie: I was skeptical about Mykonos. I'd heard such great things about both islands, but there was really only one way to separate the truth from fiction.

My fair-haired friend, April, and I set out early Sunday morning, the 6th day of our 10-day trip. Despite the experience of the hydrofoil to Santorini, we'd already pre-booked another boat ride to Mykonos (again, before we left the States).

Unlike this diagram, our ferry stopped at two islands on the way to Mykonos, making our ride another 4-hour trip.
 
Unlike the mini-cruise ship experience of the hydrofoil, the boat to Mykonos was more a high-speed ferry: much smaller, with a much rockier ride. Our luggage was stored in the cabin with our seats, using the "put-it-wherever-you-find-space" method. At least this way, we could keep our eyes on our stuff. 

Can you see the pile of luggage way in the back of this photo, on the left?

To avoid the taxi fiasco of Santorini, we called the our Mykonos hotel, the Leto, to arrange transportation.

A small, brown man was waiting for us and he politely took our luggage as we followed to his car. We walked across the pier parking lot and about 100 more yards--through an outdoor restaurant--to the front door of our hotel! Who knew it would be so close!

This is the view from the port and from the front of our hotel. It's the first thing we saw once arriving to Mykonos.

Other boats at the Old Port of Mykonos. They were gorgeous.



The port is located next to a bus stop, right behind these boats in fact, which seems to be the primary mode of transportation if you don't have a car. Although there were many places renting scooters to tourists, lots of folks, like us, opted to take the bus, which operates every 30 to 60 minutes and costs 1.50 to 2 Euro each way.

The buses were all charter style.

The best bus stop view I've ever had.
Our first stop was the first place the bus took us: San Stefano Beach. It was almost close enough to walk, but as the concierge told us, "The streets in Mykonos are very narrow. And people drink."

The restaurant at San Stefano Beach.

San Stefano Beach. The "New Port" is in the background, about 100 yards from the "Old Port".


Guess what y'all? This beach had sand. It had crystal clear blue water and people frolicking in it as far as the eye could see. It had a restaurant that served us hot stuffed mushrooms and cold fruit. It was divine.

Cheese stuffed mushrooms

Greek salad, of course

Fruit salad
Beach beds, 14 Euro for both. Score!
Our charismatic waiter, Claudio

April and Greek Mythos beer
We met a nice Italian engineer, Allesandro, at San Stefano Beach.

ALERT: Photography Geekery Ahead -->> I used a crazy Lightroom filter on this photo called "Intensive Heaven". It basically warms up your image and blows out everything blue, turquoise, teal or aquamarine. I never, ever use it, but liked it here. Just look at that water!

Guess what else? Although we were at the beach, it wasn't sweltering. We were comfortable. Just warm enough, and if we got too hot, April and I jumped in the Aegean Sea. The way life is supposed to be.
Know what else is at San Stefano Beach? African hustlers of all kinds of counterfeit goods.


This one actually sold a pair of "Beats by Dre" headphones to the Italian crew nearby.


He came over to me and said, "My sista, my sista, want to buy?" I pretended I wanted to buy a watch for my brother at home so that I could get these closeup photos.



The guy wanted 65 Euro for this watch, which is about $85 in August 2014. "My brotha" was also pretty upset that I didn't want to buy one -- a common theme on this trip: visible hostility once you opt out of a purchase.

We headed back to our hotel after a few hours, but not before seeing these posters at the bus stop. This "Trap Party" was just the night before. Wish I hadn't missed it.

Of course David Guetta is here. I heard later that entrance to this party was 60 Euro.

Yes, Mykonos not only has "Las Vegas showgirls", but more importantly, it has a Go Kart track.

Since April and I never got a full 24 hours to acclimate to Europe standard time, we took our usual midday one-hour nap and got ready for dinner. Every time we took that nap, I could've easily slept into the next day. But we only have one more day here in Mykonos, so I had to (wo)man up.

We ate at a spot not far from our hotel, which was a great location for people-watching. Like everywhere else, they offered free wifi, but you never knew if it would work until you were seated.



This is the view from our dinner table. Can you see the fireworks in the distance?

The next morning, after a little research, we headed to one of Mykonos' best beaches, rated high on TripAdvisor: Elia Beach. This is not Elia beach. It's the view from our hotel entrance. Thousands of people walk past this area daily, so there are cigarette butts and bits of trash in the shoreline here.
The bus schedules were...interesting. But accurate.


Views of Mykonos landscape from the bus to Elia Beach.
Dry as a bone, kind of like Santorini, except for all of the winding stone walls throughout the landscape. They were everywhere.
Hello, Elia Beach.
Once boarding the bus, we noticed the number of gay men boarding with us, approximately 50% of of the buses 60 riders that morning. Once we got off, half of the riders headed to the left, toward the photo above. All of the men headed to the right, along a sandy path, to a part of the beach not visible to the rest of us, except for a tall rainbow-staffed flag in the distance. Where were they going? Some 11 am gay beach party that we weren't invited to?

Doesn't matter. I was immediately distracted by more real sand.

And our beautiful view of the sea.
All I needed was a mango frozen drink and a magazine.
More views from our beach beds.





By the way, I was pretty disappointed in the lack of toplessness in Greece. Spain had it right. Oh well. I kept my top on for the duration.



The views were pretty simple, but the weather at Elia Beach was awesome. Never too hot. Ever. Know why?  Mykonos' nickname is the "island of the winds."  The wind kept us from ever getting too hot, even in direct sunlight. But as the day went on, the wind went from wonderful to WTH.
When we arrived at Elia Beach four hours before, the parking lot was empty. It was so full of scooters, we had to figure out where to go to catch the bus back.
Apparently, the "thing to see" in Mykonos are the famous windmills. Most of Mykonos' 16 windmills were built by Venetians in the 16th century, and 7 of them were right near our hotel...through a maze of winding streets.

And there they were.

Too bad the windmills are no longer in use. The wind at this slight elevation was unbelievable. Maybe 30 mph or more.

The wind up here was so strong that I literally had to hold on to my hat. April's kept blowing off so she said forget it and left it off.
View from the windmills. Over to the right is another of TripAdvisor's "must-sees": Little Venice.
Little Venice: rows of fishing houses line the waterfront with their balconies hanging over the sea. The first of these was constructed in the mid-18th century. They originally belonged to rich merchants or captains and the little basement doors that provided direct access to the sea and underground storage areas led people to believe that the owners were secretly pirates. Some of the houses have now been converted into bars and cafes and little shops and galleries. (wikipedia)
Look at those waves! I took a quick photo of Little Venice and we darted back behind the wall of shops that line the coast, shielding ourselves from the high winds. By this time, we were starving, and found a little gyro spot to eat.

This area of Mykonos, referred to as "in town", was full of awesome shops with really, really nice jewelry, clothing, and of course, souvenirs. There were clubs and restaurants and so many boutiques, all in such a small area really close to our hotel. One could slow-walk the entire area in about an hour. It was great.
People kept asking if I tried a Greek liquor called Ouzo. I had no idea what it was, but I just looked it up for all of our knowledge: It's a liquor made from anise, a spice similar to fennel or liquorice. On October 25, 2006, Greece won the right to label ouzo as an exclusively Greek product.

Not sure why this particular shop had liquor-filled phalluses--it gave me the impression that Ouzo (or Metaxa, for that matter) was good for men. And maybe it is.
And that was our time in Mykonos. Everything within a 10-mile radius.

We ate at an Italian restaurant in town where all of the waiters looked like this.

We never visited our hotel pool, except to order ice cream at the end of the night.

Mykonos is beautiful. And beautiful is an understatement. I'd recommend it to anyone wanting to relax and tan on the beach, but also someone wanting the option to shop and eat or party. The people are nice and getting around is easy. And it's the gay friendliest place I've ever visited in my life. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Stay tuned for the last leg of this trip: Istanbul, Turkey!

Insana

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