Wednesday, July 10, 2013

THE BEST PART OF OUR TRIP HAS BEEN LONG DAYS SPENT ON SHODDY RENTAL SCOOTERS, putzing around foreign places. After a cup of coffee and a fleeting glance at a map, we hit the road, making all sorts of arbitrary turns, our only directive something in the way of "Hey what's that over there?!" In a place like Mykonos, this becomes even easier, with its regularly-cresting hills, panoramic views of beaches in the distance drawing you closer. While the island is only a dozen-or-so kilometres wide, it can take longer than you think to get to one of these places, as the roads curve and wrap the hills, often at a questionable pitch. A gutless motorbike, heavy with ten thousand klicks on its wee engine, makes things slower still, but somehow manages to wheeze its way up and down each slope.

As we cruised further and further into the Myconian countryside, it became trickier to find our way back, losing track of the turns we'd taken. The trick, of course, is to flip your trip in reverse, and make turns in the opposite direction. Sometimes the way back looks nothing like the way there, even though you've driven these roads before. So it's important to take a glance over your shoulder so you'll recognize the things you've already seen. "Oh, that's the spot where we turned left, that farm with the baby goats! Go right!"

Mykonos surprised us with its parched hills and rockfaces. I knew to expect white-washed buildings and windmills, but The Flintstones-esque qualities had me reeling. It felt like the Land Before Time, which I suppose it once was, a rocky outcrop in the middle of the sea. After ten days in the Middle East, I think I expected it to be more lush by comparison, but it was bone-dry and brambly. While it's rare for me to conjure such things, I kept imagining Jesus and other biblical characters and felt like I should be wearing long robes and marching through the hills with a walking stick and tablet.

And just as we got used to winding roads and mounds of lichen, made prickly with burrs, the landscape would open up to the the bluest water we'd ever seen, aqua at its edges, and we'd be reminded we were at the sea, not in the desert. 

A scooter allowed us to putter all over this tiny island and really explore the beaches, back roads and rural stretches. It's so interesting to take a peek at the homes and lives of your average Myconian farmer or stop at a roadside fruitstand in the middle of nowhere. In terms of beaches, there are many, and we got to most of the most-notable. Below, a bit of information and rated by the cost of their sunbed-rentals (a set includes two beds and an umbrella) and their half-litre of white wine. 

Quite a party beach. Lots of closely-packed sunbeds and loud, loud music. We ventured to its west end where the newly-opened Jackie O Beach Club sits on top of the hill. It has a beautiful pool and a great atmosphere. Lots of loungers as well as covered beds and beanbags which are available to people visiting the club, presumably eating/drinking. We didn't eat here and drinks were free in celebration of its opening. (The more-typical beachfront charged 10€ for two loungers and an umbrella. Free wifi.)

By far the most expensive beach we visited, but was our first and we hadn't yet figured things out. Pretty busy, but includes attentive service and beautiful waterfront. Lots to look at (see ripped gentleman above) and free wifi.
18 set • We had two decent bottles of wine, which were 23 each.  Free wifi

Extremely quiet. A few families. Not really a "scene", just a place to hunker down and read.
Free loungers and umbrella • 6€ half-litre • Free wifi

We visited the eastern portion of this beach, around on the rocks before it turns into ELIA BEACH. This was the gay-centric nude beach and was a lot of fun. Very quiet and relaxing, with lots to look at. All the gay stuff is avoidable, but it's happening all around you. For the gays: Extremely cruisy if you're into that. There are no loungers, no facilities, no wifi. Both Elia and Agrira have all that, so head east or west of this rocky outcrop if you want.

A nice, quiet beach. More families. We had lunch and wine (served on the beach) at Epistrofi and it was perfectly good. Reasonable prices and a quite-extensive menu. 
8set • 6€ half-litre • Free wifi

Another very quiet beach. Lots of action on the water, as this is a hotspot for windsurfing. The eastern end provides loungers free of charge. We ate lunch at the nearest restaurant (as it seemed this business was providing the chairs) - Petrino Aquarius had a great view and terrific menu. 
Free loungers and umbrella • 6€ half-litre • Free wifi


1) On Cycladic islands like Mykonos, the main town is generally named after the island. ie. Mykonos Town, or known simply as Chora. Which means town. The one here is very special, a weaving maze of tiny streets, three-people-wide (sometimes narrower) with two-storey white plaster buildings rising on either side. Everything from janky souvenir shops to swanky cocktail bars spill out into the labyrinth. We spent most evenings wandering, trying to determine who offered the best gyros. See next:

2) Jimmy's. After much research (though I refused to Google the average calorific-value of a gyro) we found theirs to be the juiciest, with the best balance of meat/pita/tzatziki. They are located deep in Chora with plenty of seating for people-watching and some decent boxed wine. You can't beat 3€ for a quick dinner in the heart of town. 

3) And here's the thing about eating on Mykonos: You can have a fancy meal at a nice restaurant, a quick bite at a beachside eatery, or a gyro hunched on a curb and you'll see every walk of life there with you. You see fancy-pants people scarfing souvlaki or bathing-suit-clad backpackers splurging on a nice dinner. I love a place where a sandwich and boxed wine isn't considered slumming it.

4) Greek people are the gym teachers of the human race, at once inspiring and terrifying. 

5) The only good place on the island to buy decent honeyballs is Komninos in Chora. Look it up. 

6) The best meal we had was at a hotel in Tourlos (the northwest part of the island) that we stumbled upon. Meze on Port is a poolside hotel restaurant that blends a fish monger, a deli, and a proper bistro all into one. We chose our own fish (a selection of 200g whole white fish caught nearby that day) and had a sort-of Greek salad, though it whipped its feta into meringue-like peaks. While more expensive than most meals we typically eat, it was worth it and I'd recommend a visit here. It's off the beaten path and very quiet. They also have a pool you could enjoy if you felt so inclined. 

7) The best baklava we had was from Express Crepes near the new port. 

8) Gas (petrol) was really, really expensive on Mykonos. 1.82€/litre ($US9.28 a gallon!) and with all the hills to climb, we actually spent quite a bit of money on it. Something to think about if renting a car.

9) Mykonos is just 85.5 km ²

10) The sea water is the nicest I've ever seen/swam in, ever. Super-salty, fresh, and crystal clear. But ... it's really cold. I'd estimate it was about 65-68°F, and this was in early-July. Locals told us it doesn't really get much warmer. It's refreshing, to say the least. 

11) Unlike other places we've visited (Bali, Vietnam, Thailand) motorbike rentals are considerably more expensive. Bali was the cheapest at just $3.50 a day. Mykonos was a whopping €15 ($20). Still worth it.

LOCATION: Paris, France
DATE AND TIME: Wednesday, July 10, 2013 11:00AM Central European Summer Time/Wednesday, July 10, 2013 4:00AM EST


Location: Mykonos, Greece
Accommodation: Pension Alexandra 
You can find everything from hostels to the highest high-end hotels and private villas in Mykonos. We landed somewhere near the bottom with Pension Alexandra. While it had everything we needed, it was very barebones. Two single beds and a tiny bathroom covers the tour. But its location is great, just outside the hustle and close to bus routes, should you require them. The room includes a good-sized mini fridge, which is a must for us (wine and cheese). The service was a bit brusque, as is often the case in Greece, we have found, but perfectly serviceable and very budget-conscious. Good wifi.

Eating: See some noted above on the Bulletpoints.


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