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Greece: The Unabridged Version

Note: The post below was written almost five years ago, but for whatever reason I never got around to posting it. It's dated, but still relevant - and reading it was a sweet trip down the memory lane for me. This gets long, so you might consider the highlights post instead. For a day-by-day recount of the trip, read on.

A month after graduating with my Kellogg MBA (egads), I went with 6 Kellogg classmates to Greece. N, our gracious host and a fellow classmate, was Greek and classy, and thus hell-bent on showing us the best of non-touristy Greece. He succeeded spectacularly - it was the best Greece trip I could ask for. By the way - if any of you are thinking about b-school and specifically Kellogg, do that pre-school vacation trip (known at Kellogg as KWEST). I went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, with a bunch of people who were then strangers, but are now some of my best mates. The people I was in Greece with, N included, all went on the same trip with me to Puerto Vallarta, and - as I've mentioned previously - they made the trip.

Day 1

I flew into Athens from Greece via London - Heathrow. Heathrow Terminal 5 is impressive, and having departed from O'Hare, it was all the more jawdropping. The rest of the group was flying in from all over the world - everyone had scattered post-graduation. In the evening, N took us to a seafood restaurant on the beach, not unlike the restaurants on Jimbaran. We then had our first taste of the Greek lifestyle when we then dropped by a hut by a hidden cove, which was really a waterside bar. The electricity was out, but the bar was still operating, the moonlight reflected on the water providing just enough light for people not to stumble. We sat there, drinks in our hands, chatting away in the dark of the night, until about 4AM - amazingly, the bar was still full despite the fact that it was a weeknight.

Day 2

We got our first taste of the Athens history with a visit to the Poseidon temple. The ruins of the temple was awe-inspiring, but the view from the top of the hill was simply breathtaking: we watched yachts come and go around Athens' many inlets and beaches, all surrounded by dazzling blue waters. In the evening, N held a backyard BBQ at his house, and we got to mingle with his Greek friends. This was a weeknight, but the party didn't quite end until 4AM. Notice a trend here? The Greeks sure know how to live life.

Day 3

A visit to the Acropolis museum and the Acropolis site revealed a bit more of the many layers of Greek history. Apparently, wherever they build train stations and such, they find historic archaeological relics and sites. This leads to many of the train stations having a mini-museum where they display the excavated relics from the site. The museum at the Athens airport was particularly large, but I suppose it's only natural given the size of the airport. For dinner, N and his sister led us down one of the itsy bitsy Athens alleyways to dine on very honest, authentic, local cooking - the eatery (because I'm not sure it's even big enough to be called a restaurant) only had about 10 items on its menu, but the food was amazing. It was the best plate of rabbit I've ever had, and my waistline had started issuing warning signs at this point.

Day 4

We took the ferry from Athens to Mykonos, and arrived early enough to head straight to one of Mykonos' most exclusive beaches - Psarou. After a day at the beach and a nice shower at the hotel, we started our downtown Mykonos adventures. What a place! There was not a motorway in sight - just pebble-coated lanes winding this way and that sandwiched between block-shaped white buildings, and people everywhere. Our post-dinner drinks was one of Mykonos' Little Venice bars, where we were splashed with seawater inbetween shots of Jaeger, and stayed until dawn came. As we made our way back to our hotel through the heart of the town, we found all the shops still open - this was about 6AM, mind you - and so I grabbed gelato while others went for pizza.

Day 5

As if Psarou wasn't a beautiful enough beach, N took us to Paraga - some of the most gorgeous girls I've ever seen were baring it all, adding to the scenery. This was when I discovered the joy of restaurant-owned beach chairs, and the frappes. Given how little proper sleep we had the previous night, we chose to stay in this night, only to come face-to-face the following day with...

Day 6

...the craziest day at the beach in my life. Back in Psarou for the day, we hit an exceptional beach restaurant called Nammos, apparently the hottest restaurant at Mykonos - no surprise, given the quality of the food, service, and music. By 7PM, we were properly satiated, well buzzed from the endless flow of wine (our glasses never seemed to have a chance to be empty), and had all danced for a couple of hours straight - the restaurant had turned into a beach club while we were dining. I would go back to Mykonos again just for that restaurant, and the fact that one can simply have a dip in the azure waters when the dancing gets a bit sweaty.

Day 7

Our hearts thoroughly stolen by Mykonos, we left by ferry to Santorini, and promptly hit the black sand beach. The black color of the sand is due to Santorini's volcanic land. It does absorb heat pretty well, so there was much hopping around when the sand is involved. The best thing about our local hosts was that we got to have a delectable feast of Santorinian delicacies on a porch overlooking much of the island. Dinner was both gorgeous and delicious, and it was very reasonably priced - none of that tourist price tag stuff. Then onto a big night out in downtown Fira it was - first up was cocktails from the famed Casablanca Soul (I just had to try their lychee martini. It was very well made), then the happening club, Enigma. Enigma was exceptional - the music, the crowd, the atmosphere all made for a fabulous night out. By the time we stumbled out of the club, happy, slightly exhausted, and perhaps more than slightly buzzed, the sun had already started coming out. Clearly, it must be time for souvlaki.

Day 8

Having somehow made our way into our beds around 8AM, we finally woke up for a repeat performance of the black sand beach around 1PM. This was perhaps the best day of the whole trip:

  • Beach chairs were the best sun-soaked beds on which to continue our sleep
  • Sunset at Oia was beyond beautiful. Oia itself was so quirky and cute - white-washed cube-shaped buildings seemed to stack on top of each other on the rocky cliff. I have no idea how anybody could have thought up such a bizarre architecture.
  • Dinner was a posh affair at Archipelagos. It might not have been as cheap as the previous night's fare, but it was just as good if not better, and the service and location - overlooking the water and the volcano island - were definitely worth the extra buck.

It was then straight into Enigma - again - for our closing party. Just like the previous night, we left only when it started becoming light outside. We said goodbye to our hosts, N and his friends, who were most excellent, got changed, and headed straight to the airport for our early morning flight back to Athens, from whence we would take our separate flights home. Most of us were desperately wanting some shut eye by the time we checked in, but it didn't stop us from starting our (what was sure to be the first of many) reminiscences of The Amazing Greece Summer Holiday That Was.

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