For a reasonably exotic get-a-way, the Greek Islands are once again all the rage. The trip is just enough of a hardship – 9+ hours from NYC to Athens, then various cars and ferries – to be able to proclaim globetrotter status. And once there, you’re close enough to the cradle of civilization that the abundant ancient temples, and the magnificent myths that go along with them, casually become the day’s talking points – temporarily erasing the nightmare back home from the front of your consciousness.
We recently spent a glorious week on Kea, seemingly the closest island to the Greek mainland, and one that has, so far, very much escaped the onslaught of rich partiers who keep the Dom flowing and the cheesy house music cranked on Mykonos (“Mickey Mouse,” as one yachting traveler we met snarkily renamed it), and the other more popular and trendy rocks.
Life is pretty simple on Kea, and that was fine with us. The day was spent deciding what restaurants to go to for lunch and dinner, and what beach to flop on. Rent a scooter and you can get ’round the whole place in a day. For historical gravitas, it has the surreal ancient city of Karthea (or Carthaea), home to the Temple of Apollo, which takes hiking down, and then up, a mile-long dusty trail to get to. The reward was worth it, however, as the trail opens up to a pristine beach we had only to share with a brace of fancy catamarans.
We climbed up to said temple, which overlooked the valley and beach, imagining life on the ethereal island 2500 years ago. Back in the picturesque hillside village of Loulis we strolled the whitewashed streets, stopping for a traditional dinner of salads, olives, chickpea mash, feta, and grilled fish.
Access to all island hopping is of course through the Greek capitol; and on our last night we decamped to Athens’ cooly modern Perianth Hotel. Located in the center of town just north of the grandiose Acropolis and the hilly streets of the district, the Perianth is a minimalist marvel located in the newly hip Monastiraki district, all sleek lines and muted greys/blacks. Our impressively spacious room, boasting an incredibly comfy king-size bed, even had a balcony that looked directly out on the two thousand year old citadel. The hotel also has an excellent Italian restaurant, Il Barretto.
Strolling the buzzy area around Monastiraki Square, we discovered more shopping than our bank account could handle. Crossing into Plaka, we were especially impressed by glittering wares at long-time jeweler Byzantino. Our final dinner was down a graffiti strewn alley that opened out into a small square in the adjacent Psiri, another burgeoning hood, where locals gathered to drink and laugh the night away. At Kafeneio Ivis we again feasted on the simple but satisfying Greek trio of olives, feta salad and fried fish.
Our only regret was not having time to immerse ourselves in the Athens Zen Center, which, amazingly, is also part of the hotel. But a couple of days in Kea had already decisively done away with all our urban stresses – those which surely awaited us once again, just a 9-hour flight away.