Our editor takes a whirlwind cruise through the Greek Islands with Celestyal Cruises. Here’s what she learned…
1. The Coolest Bar in Athens is Pretty Colourful
The coolest bar in the whole of Athens has to be Brettos Bar in the Plaka district. This low-key spot is simply oozing with colour and authentic character. Behind the bar the walls are a tapestry of softly-lit multicolour bottles and one entire wall is an altar of wooden barrels of home-made brandies and ouzos—as Brettos is a distillery that has been making its own liquor since 1909.
2. You Will Hang Out with the Cool Crowd
Vickie Sam Paget
Oh Mykonos, you are so STYLISH. You’re ridiculously stylish. And not only are you drop-dead gorgeous to look at, but most of your inhabitants are as well. Make your way down to ‘Little Venice’—where the quaint white houses hang precariously over the blue ocean—to chill out with the cool crowd at sunset. Order an ouzo and drink in the view. Rub shoulders with the uber-attractive locals as ambient tunes fill the air.
3. Appetisers Will Become a Matter of Vital Importance
When I think of the nonchalant way I used to order appetisers before I went to Greece, I shudder. Appetisers are now my favourite part of the menu, and as such, they deserve to be treated with respect. Take the appetisers at the Island Lipsi Restaurant, which is hidden away within the walls of Rhode’s Old Town. The owner, Niki, will come to your table and dress your Greek salad like you have never had a Greek salad dressed before. Seriously, you will swoon. Then she’ll dish up local specialities like stifado and exohiko—and man—what her chef can do with a lump of feta cheese and some filo pastry should probably be outlawed. It’s that addictive. But more of that later…
4. Ouzo Will Become your New Go-To Drink
This anise-flavoured aperitif is nothing short of a symbol of Greek culture. Blend in with the locals by adding a little water and then dive into its cloudy goodness. It’s fabulous and feisty and it has a kick—just like the country it calls home.
5. You May Find Yourself in Turkey
Vickie Sam Paget
Turkey and Greece may not always have seen eye to eye historically, but geographically, they are really close. So an added bonus on my Celestyal Cruise of the Greek Islands was a morning in the simply astounding ancient city of Ephesus. The Library of Celsus is an incredibly beautiful ruin that once held some 12,000 scrolls. There you’ll also see the Temple of Hadrian, an incredible theatre and the mind-blowingly well-preserved communal latrines that date back to the first century AD. Although rustic, they look like they could still be used today!
6. Feta Cheese Will Become Your New Obsession
So back to the delights of feta cheese. Yes, as mentioned earlier, they do something pretty special with their feta cheese in Greece—and it should come with a warning because it’s highly addictive. I first sampled this delight in Rhode’s Island Lipsi Restaurant, as mentioned earlier. Imagine a lump of feta cheese, wrapped in filo pastry, popped into the oven for long enough to make it warm and soft and gooey and then caressed with honey and sprinkled in sesame seeds. It’s insanely irresistible, so much so that I began to panic-eat this cheesy temptation three days before I left the country.
7. You Will Yearn to Have the Acropolis all to Yourself
Yes, it’s pure madness up there during peak hours. Escape the cruise ship crowds and do yourself a big favour by going early in the morning of later in the afternoon.
8. Smashing Plates Does More for you than 10 Years of Therapy
It’s true. Forget lying on a couch moaning about the fact that your parents didn’t love you. Go straight to Adriano’s Restaurant in Athen’s Plaka district to eat a sumptuous dinner of drop-off-the-bone slow cooked lamb and Greek salad while the house band pluck bouzoukis and chime out clinkety-clink Greek tunes. This is simple fare, but what it’s lacking in finesse it more than makes up for in character. The occasional Greek will get up to perform an impromptu—but soulful—traditional dance and if you’re really lucky, your waiter will deliver some specially-made Plaster of Paris plates to your table. Go on: smash them. You know you want to.
9. You Will Fall in Love with Several Crew Members
There’s no other way to explain it: the staff aboard Celestyal Cruises treat you like royalty. I fell deeply in love with several of them, including the outrageously handsome Dimitri (resplendent in his whiter-than-white officer’s uniform) and the wonderfully warm Ronny, a continuously friendly presence at my dinner table who occasionally grabs his guitar and gets staff and passengers alike into a total tizzy as he performs as ‘The Filipino Elvis’.
10. You Will Experience the Sunset of a Lifetime in Santorini
Vickie Sam Paget
Sigh… Yes, that’s what watching the sunset from Santorini will make you do. It’s just one of those things: it’s bucket list, it’s once-in-a-lifetime: it’s so incredibly beautiful it makes your heart ache. Watch a sunset from Santorini and it’s easy to convince yourself that the Greek gods are simply showing off what they can do. And for that, I thank them. Sigh…
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