52 Greek Islands & still around the Western USA

GREEK ISLANDS                                                                                      May 2019

 SIFNOS ISLAND

Upon arrival by ferry we could see the whole small Kamares village around the bay.


Hotel Kamari was at the other end, but within walking distance. Our spacious room had a vine-festooned balcony from where we had a view towards the rocky hills with yellow spring daisies. Downstairs there was always cake and first class coffee.

The restaurants were all lined up along the beach next to the only street. In between pottery studios and galleries displayed colourful wares.

It was Greek orthodox Easter Sunday and traditional lamb on a spit was being served. The Sifnos Greek salad always had divine large capers in addition to local olives and feta.

Our friendly hotel arranged a hire car and we went for an 80 km drive around the small island. Olive trees were in flower.

The Chrysopigi monastery, 600 years old, perches on an islet surrounded by aqua blue water. 

 

 At the quiet fishing hamlet of Platys Giyalos, we waited for the grill to cook the (souvlaki) skewered meats and the meat on the vertical rotisserie (gyros). It was served in pita with onion, cucumber, tomato and tzatzikii and as always with French fries. 

 
 

 

Kastro, a fascinating and mysterious white-washed village upon a domed rock towers above the azure sea. It has been inhabited for 3000 years. Tunnels and passageways are connected into a labyrinth of tiny walkways adjoining houses around a fort.

 After 4 days when we leave the hotel for the ferry we receive hugs from mother and daughter and a ride to catch the large Blue Star ferry.

 

NAXOS ISLAND. (The largest island of the Cyclades group). 

 

 

Above the port of Naxos (Hora) white cube-shaped buildings are stacked with a web of cobbled alleys against its hilltop kastro with a fort dating from the 13th century.  Our accommodation, Magic View Studios, looked over the sea to the unfinished Temple of Apollo on a small islet linked with a footbridge. We followed a steep footpath down to the harbour where a double row of restaurants extended as far as the eye could see. Lunch on the beach was a “meat plate” and stuffed aubergine, followed by bread pudding.

 


DELOS ISLAND.

 

 

On a day excursion by ferry from Naxos L went to Delos. Once home to a magnificent city; now one of Greece’s most important archaeological sites. It has no permanent population. First inhabited 3rd millennium BCE. Mythical Delos reached the height of its power in Hellenistic times. It is the birthplace of twins Apollo and Artemis. Romans made a duty free port in 167CE and this meant more prosperity. When trade routes shifted, a steady decline and looting started taking place.




On the Delos excursion, the ferry also docked at the popular island of Mykonos with the famous windmills. Boutiques and restaurants line all the streets.

 

Back to Naxos. A friend had recommended O Apostolis restaurant in a pretty flagstone courtyard. The complimentary starter was chick pea soup n a small long-handled jug poured into tiny cups. Moussaka to die for was individually served in ceramic bowls - with golden brown potatoes at the bottom.

 

We explored the long sandy beaches south of bustling Naxos and the interior of the island with blue-domed churches on hilltops. There are vineyards and citrus- and fig trees.

 

Halki is a tiny old village with pedestrian lanes linking galleries, cafes and small shops in historic villas.

Filotii’s sugar cube-like buildings are stacked amphitheatrically on 2 hills.

Apiranthos seems to grow out of the stony flanks of a mountain. Taverna o Platanos is next to a huge plane tree and the seating on the patio affords views of the peaks and valley below. We enjoyed local wine and tried the traditional ‘rosto pork’ in tomato sauce. The music was traditional bouzouki. (Pity about the cigarette smoke - everywhere)

Hundreds of thousands of olive trees grow on Naxos Island. We visited the historic olive press in Eggares, which had been in operation from 1850 to 1960. I learned that there are many cultivars of olive trees in the world; Naxos has 2 species

 When the owner of Magic View wants to take us to the ferry, his car keys are missing. He sends us by taxi. Later that evening, two ferries away, Jan discovers them in his pocket…..

 

IKARIA ISLAND.

On the way we stopped at Santorini and Syros islands. We reached the port of Ikaria, Agios Kyrikos town at midnight. We were booked into Hotel Kastro (Kastro=Tower!) We dragged our wheeled luggage up a steep hill. We were relieved to be welcomed and to crash until breakfast time.

 

 

The small harbour has a lively waterfront cafe scene. Restaurants are indoors or on a patio extended to the water’s edge. Groups of older men sat smoking over small cups of strong coffee. We had a large hot frappe coffee and an omelette with melted Ikaria goat’s milk cheese and rice pudding. There are a few winding clustered old streets with small shops. The island is named after Icarus (the flyer who in Greek mythology fell from the sky when the wax that joined his wings was melted by the heat of the sun.) In the late afternoon the sun lights up the wings of the Icarus monument. Ikaria is assumed to be the birthplace of the Greek god of wine Dionysus – and we toasted him. 

 

Our departure from the island of Ikaria was from the other side at Efdilos port. We rented a car and then drove there; just left it unlocked at the harbour parking. On the way to the ferry harbour we found that the hot spring resorts at Therma were not yet open for the season, but we enjoyed the drive through rocky moonscapes and dramatic forested gorges and hidden beaches with aquamarine waters.

 At Efdilos the white mansions stacked up against the surrounding hill, have terracotta-coloured roofs. We watched a ship offloading its whole cargo of bags of white-wash to paint buildings, fences and curbs

In a small eatery, Leone ordered tea and it was served in a cute little teapot and not with a biscuit but with a little dish of olives and herby croutons. The bakery had small baklava and kataifi rolls.

  

SAMOS ISLAND

When we reached Vathi port we were relieved to still find a taxi and reached the multi-storeyed Samos hotel at 03h00. We could sleep to 9 and enjoyed a buffet breakfast. The Greek touch was: creamy yogurt, olives, cucumber, feta cheese, baklava, sponge cake, small spinach and cheese pastries, a big tub of honey and a large tub of tahini. Along Samos city’s picturesque coastal avenue on the large curving waterfront Jan found meaty delights and Leone stuffed tomato and sweet pepper.

The side streets are picturesque where bougainvilleas were brilliantly blooming.

 

 

We transferred to the other side of the island to the village of Potokaki. We could hear the lapping waves from our bedroom and when enjoying breakfast on the patio of Hotel Penelope, next to the pebbly beach of pretty stones.

One evening we had a buffet dinner at Samian Blue restaurant in a modern hotel overlooking the ocean. We discovered the most delicious aromatic dry wine: a white Samos wine made from the local moschato grape.

 

One evening when everything else was closed, at a beach cafe we were served, as starter, home pickled olives, ginger, and an unknown tasty marinated sprig of ? (after research.  Sea fennel/Rock samphire/kritamo/ capparis). The tasty meat ’balls’ were flat and square!

 


 

 

The nearby ancient city of Pythagorio still uses the harbour constructed in the 6th Century BCE. It is such a thrill to take a selfie at the Pythagoras monument. (The famous mathematician/philosopher lived from 570 to 495 BCE.) The ancient city walls are still standing. Nearby foundations found are of the largest Hellenic temple built about 8th century BCE. We visited the Eupalinian tunnel. The 890 subterranean aqueducts brought fresh spring water in clay pipes to the city. Engineered by Eupalinos; it took 10 years to build in 550 BCE. It was used for 1000 years.

 The port is picturesque with fishing boats next to sailing ships and yachts. Restaurants and taverns have Greek only and bilingual menus posted; often with someone explaining or enticing you inside.

 

Then it was a long haul via Athens, Philadelphia, Miami to Phoenix AZ USA.


USA2019

To Glacier National Park

 

 

From Arizona we took a new route through the state of Colorado and loved the scenery of snow still on the mountains in June.

 

Along the Gunnison River we searched in vain for the Sage Grouse with its comic slapping bulbous sacks.

 

 At the loveliest mountain village, Telluride, Leone went to the Blue Grass Country Music Festival. The most popular artist was South African born Gregory Alan Isakov.

 

It was fun to pose IN van Gogh’s painting of “Bedroom in Arles”. It was part of the Salida art walk. 

 

 

In the mean time Jan nursed a long birthday beer above the raging Arkansas River.

 

In the town of Buena Vista we enjoyed an Independence Day pancake breakfast in the park and a parade. Then it was night, and time for the 4th of July fire works. It sounded like artillery and the crackle of machine guns.  There was smoke and red and yellow fire over the town. Then the greens and blues went up and the sky bloomed with chrysanthemums, and ran with silver rain.

    


 The famous ski resort of Steam Boat Springs offered summer a
ttractions like music in the Botanic Garden and soaking in the rustic Strawberry Park Hot Springs.

 

 

 

 The mineral-rich states of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana have turned the previously-prosperous mining towns into tourist attractions. Leadville restored the famous Tabor Opera house. We visited the National Mining Hall of Fame, The Mineral Museum at Montana Tech and The World Museum of Mining.            Fascinating also was the American Computer and Robotics Museum in Bozeman, Mo. They display an Antikyther machine from 2000BC – the world’s oldest computer; Volta’s first battery; the 

first Apple computer, 1976.

 
 

We drove through Wyoming to Glacier National Park, Montana. It was high summer season and crowded. By getting in line at 5 in the morning, we could secure a camping site. Glacier National Park boasts some of the most spectacular scenery on the planet. The park preserves more than a million acres of forests, alpine meadows, lakes, rugged peaks and glacial-carved valleys in the Northern Rocky Mountains. 

 

 

By using the shuttle we could truly appreciate the views from the Going-to-the-Sun Road. The drive up is breathtaking. Like seriously take your breath away, amazing. We thought this must be the most beautiful drive in the U.S. You climb until you reach the highest point at Logan’s Pass.

 

 

There starts the easy hike to Hidden Lake through fields of flowers and plumes of white bear grass and past streams and waterfalls with views to mountains as far as the eye can see. We passed a white Mountain goat and her kid. 


 On the ridge there were the dramatic silhouettes of Mountain Sheep. Lunch was at the historic Lake Mc Donald Lodge with its tubs of petunia flowers.

  







 At the campsite Jan replaced a burned-out solenoid. He found that the clutch plate was worn. He announced that we would have to get to Flagstaff by a gentle route (2500km) and without delay, because we could not risk a roadside break-down as we had a plane home to catch.

 

In Blackfoot town we saw The Idaho Potato museum. We stayed over with friends whose house is next to massive potato silos and we learned even more about the potato industry.

Leone was delighted to enjoy an uncommercialised pow-wow on the Shoshone-Bannock Indian reservation. We could park overnight and the colourful dancing and mesmerizing drumming continued until late.

 

 One highlight on the way south was to reunite in Salt Lake City, Utah with a young guy we had met in Colombia, South America in 2007. He and a friend were then travelling in a beat-up Kombi and shared a few meals in Dipli. Now he is the technical manager at SnowBird ski resort. We parked there beneath the cable car and he took us to the divine retro-style restaurant - opened only 4 days before.

 






We arrived safely back in Flagstaff AZ in time for the Coconino County fair quilts, animals and fair food. Best free entertainment included the unbelievable skilful Navajo-Dine' traditional “Hoop Dance”, and Fushiko Daiko: Japanese drumming.

 

Then it was cosy chats with our “American family” and farewell to them for the usual six months in South Africa.

 …..Little did we know…?

 

 

Comments