VACATION IN LIGHTS
Vacation in Lights: A Reader's Adventures in Greece
Nancy Lasner of Washington is the latest contributor to Your Vacation in Lights, in which we invite Travel section readers to dish about their recent trips. It's a big, confusing travel world out there, and you can help your fellow travelers navigate it. You won't win a million dollars if your story is featured -- in fact, you won't win anything but the thanks and admiration of your fellow readers. To file your own trip report, see the fine print below.
WHAT: Two weeks in Greece -- one on the mainland, one on two islands.
WHO: Myself and an equally adventurous friend, Ann Marie Cusella, both former Californians in our early 60s.
WHY: How can you beat the place where Western civilization began?
THE TRIP: Loosely planned to allow for fatigue, local recommendations and maximum spontaneity. But basically, we flew to Athens, drove to Delphi to consult the Oracle, then traveled to the small coastal town of Nafplio. Back in Athens, we dumped half our stuff at the hotel and flew to Santorini, then took the ferry to Naxos.
COST: Around $2,000 each. Airfare was financed with frequent-flier miles from the greatest cousin in the world.
GETTING AROUND: The metro in Athens allowed us to visit neighborhoods off the tourist path. Driving was a terrifying experience: Greece has one of the worst accident rates in Europe, according to the World Health Organization, and it is a reputation well earned. Still, having a rental car allowed us the flexibility to stop in villages and explore ancient sites along the way. The ferry to Naxos was comfortable and took five hours on the return ride to Athens.
A-LIST ATTRACTIONS: For history, it is hard to top the Acropolis (Athens), the Sanctuary of Apollo (Delphi) and the Theater at Epidaurus. The islands were relaxed with beaches, wineries, monasteries and little villages untouched by tourism.
FAVORITE EATS: I never tired of Greek yogurt, swimming in honey, every morning. And, yum, fried cheese. The Greeks love to drink and often brought free ouzo or local liquor to our table, shots of goodwill. They also serve octopus balls -- not what you think, but kind of like crab cakes.
BEDS, BATHS AND BEYOND: We had clean, charming, simple rooms, always with a balcony or patio, and the great (pre-tourist season) prices often included full breakfasts. The staff/owners were unfailingly helpful. The Carolina Hotel in Athens stored our extraneous stuff, the brothers at the Pan Hotel in Delphi told us stories about their grandparents whose house sat atop the ruins of the Temple of Apollo, and the owner of the Antonia on Santorini called his friend on Naxos to get us a great deal there.