About a week after our arrival to Greece in early April, Jeff and I were invited to attend a dinner party with our host and her good friends. One of them was gracious enough to invite us to stay at her house on one of the islands up north, Skiathos. We excitedly accepted the offer, but decided to wait until our work schedule freed up a bit and when the weather would be warmer – and honestly, we had to make sure there was sufficient play-money to justify the cost of buses, ferries, taxis, etc.

Things lined up near the end of May. We traveled by bus from Athens to the port city of Volos, where we sat on the pier and ate a picnic lunch of hard boiled eggs and oranges before boarding a ferry to Skiathos. We were thrilled to see a small pod of dolphins swimming alongside our ferry, at one point, but they were too quick for the camera.

After about 45 minutes, the ferry slowed and we pulled into the main port of the island.

DSC_0068-2

Skiathos is a tiny island, about 7 miles by 4 miles, but played some significant historical roles as a key defensive point in the naval battles with the Persians and is also the site where the first modern Greek flag was created and flown.

To us, it was a quiet, beautiful getaway.

Away from the noisy, dirty (dare I say complainy?) city of Athens, Skiathos was charming, inviting, and cultivated. The friendly locals seemed very proud of their island paradise, and it showed in the way they kept the town freshly painted, the streets clean, and the beaches mostly undisturbed.

DSC_0124-2

DSC_0133

DSC_0222

DSC_0159-2

Luckily for us, we had arrived still early in the season, so we missed out on the throngs of college kids that would arrive in the months ahead. Most of the other tourists were our senior by about 30 years. Unluckily though, our early arrival also meant that the waters were still frigid.

The main part of town is very quaint with cobbled, winding lanes that seem to transport you back in time as you wander past churches, shops, homes, and restaurants.

DSC_0163

DSC_0177-2

DSC_0190
DSC_0205

DSC_0204

DSC_0152

DSC_0148-2

DSC_0153-2

One of the first things we did was find a private stretch of beach, where we took turns nervously stripping down and changing into our swimwear behind a rock while the other was lookout. We sat in the cold sand with the waves lapping at our feet and bright sun keeping us warm. This is one of several moments during our travels that we chose not to capture on camera; that memory is just for us.

Once we were ready for more exploring, we hiked back up the beach and started strolling around the town.

DSC_0067

DSC_0114-2

DSC_0111

DSC_0092

DSC_0058-2

DSC_0051

At this point, we took a taxi up the steep hills to the home of our host where we would stay for the next four days. Our host lives and works in Athens, but her mother lives here on their Skiathos property, with a delightful housekeeper who cares for her (and everything else).

It was lovely. We had the bottom floor apartment all to ourselves, separate from the rest of the large property. Outside, the grounds were covered in morning glories, roses, and lemon trees. Chickens roamed freely, miraculously undisturbed by the many cats (I counted at least eight) that shared the yard with them.

DSC_0074

DSC_0078-2

DSC_0079-2

DSC_0007-2

This is Artemis. I love her. She is one of the friendliest cats I’ve ever known.

DSC_0018-2

The housekeeper, Voula, had her own apartment on the property. She spoke no English. She was so sweet. She brought us freshly cut flowers, eggs (still warm from the chickens), tomatoes, feta cheese, milk, bread, and olive oil. Along with some pasta that we brought along, plus a lemon that we plucked from one of the trees outside, we now had everything we needed for one of our favorite pasta dishes.

DSC_0024-2

The next morning, we skipped the expensive taxi ride and walked all the way down to the beach. The views coming down the hill were incredible.

DSC_0030-2

DSC_0036-2

Cold as the water was, I waded in.

DSC_0042

Jeff put down the camera and followed me in. He was in about up to his neck, while I barely made it in waist-deep. It was then that I noticed something clear and plastic-looking floating near Jeff. I looked a little more closely. It was definitely a jellyfish.

The only thing I know about jellyfish is that they sting you and hurt really bad, and then you have to pee on yourself.

Now we could see them everywhere. We hurried out of the water, and made it out unscathed.

We decided it was time to find a nicer beach.

 

Skiathos boasts some of the best beaches in the world. One of the main beaches, Koukounaries (translated: pine cones), has a fresh water lake behind it, only yards away from the shoreline.  But it’s most famous for the powder-soft sand.

DSC_0271

DSC_0266

After our earlier close-encounter with the jellyfish, I was nervous of both scary underwater sea creatures and the cold temperatures. This time Jeff scouted it out first. Then I braved the waters. We waded for a few minutes in the cold water before Jeff went back to retrieve the GoPro camera. He came back out in the water and handed it off to me. Wanting to impress him and make a cool video clip, I impulsively took the first plunge.

001

002

We played in the water a while, ate another picnic lunch of hard boiled eggs and oranges, laid around, and finally packed up to leave. I made sure to collect some of the amazingly fine sand in a sandwich bag as a souvenir.

DSC_0258

We hiked for a while back to the road, then hiked a little more until we found a bus stop. We were pretty sun-toasted by the time we got on a bus back to the port. The AC was lovely.

Once we got back, we found a nice little lounge where we bought sodas and sat in the shade a while.

DSC_0227-2

It was getting to be evening-time, and we were ready for some food. I needed a Nutella crepe.

DSC_0229-2

Jeff went for the pork gyros (of course).

DSC_0231

Once we were fed, we went exploring again. This time, we hiked up to the clock tower on the hill.

From the top you can see the old Medieval fort, built to protect the island from marauding pirates, and far out at sea you can start to make out the amassing gray cloud of seagulls as they swarm incoming fishing boats.

DSC_0283

003

The views from atop the the hill overlooking the town are stunning and romantic. The misty, humid sea air gave the town a soft haze in the fading light.

DSC_0336

DSC_0305

DSC_0324

DSC_0337

004

Jeff set up his camera to capture some time-lapse, and we stayed up there relaxing until dark.

DSC_0344

In my research about this place, I had learned that there were certain amazing beaches on this island that can only be reached by boat. The more we thought about it, the more we wanted to take a boat tour around the island to see them in person. So, on the way home that night, we walked along the pier and found one of the old, weathered boat tour operators that offered exactly the tour we were hoping for.

We bought our tickets for the next day, and smiled the rest of the way home.