You Gotta #LoveCYCLADES

#LovePAROS

Three Easy Pieces for Hikers on Paros

"A Greek building in Pireaus"

Yes, you guessed it : We are in Greece!

On the beautiful island of Paros, to be precise, the pearl of the Aegean Sea. And just to prove to you that we are not simply taking it easy – although the temptation to just have a good time and let writing duties go hang may sometimes be hard to resist …

"Three Easy Pieces for Hikers on Paros so you won't be like this dog on car roof top"

… here are the results of the first few days on our Cyclades tour and a few suggestions for pleasant, short and not overly taxing walks.

We are based in the north of Paros, near the town of Naoussa, so our first brief excursions have naturally centered on this part of the island. First up, a trip up Vigla mountain north of Kolympithres, which takes you around the west of Naoussa Bay and then uphill to the very top of the ridge from where you have not only magnificent views of the bay itself but also across the Aegean to the neighbouring islands of Delos and Mykonos.

"View from the Vigla mountain in Paros"

This is a very fine walk but perhaps – coming from Naoussa – a trifle on the long side, so it may be best to hire a car or take a cab to take you at least halfway up the hill where there is a friendly little tavern with an equally friendly little parking place, and you may just want to take it further up from here.

Secondly, there is Naoussa itself, a lovely and curiously unspoilt small town which combines everything you love about the Cyclades: the colour …

"small alley in Naoussa"

… the history …

"inside a byzantine chapel in Noussa"

… and the Mediterreanean flavour …

"port harbor of Noussa"

… without spoiling it all through garish vulgarity or overbearing cuteness.

And while you are here, and feeling perhaps a little bit peckish after the exertions of having climbed up Mount Vigla, Mario’s Restaurant in Naoussa’s Old Harbour is just the ticket to round off your visit: with products that are sourced straight away from Mario’s own farm, it blends all the charms of traditional Greek cuisine with contemporary Mediterranean stylishness. A sunny afternoon on Mario’s terrace, with an assortment of seafood dishes on the table and surrounded by the chatter of large Greek families is a wonderful experience. Life simply does not get much better than this.

Finally, we took a brief walk on the eastern half of Naoussa Bay, eastward from the Kalypso Hotel, following the coastline of the hotel’s own little bay inside the much larger bay of Naoussa (much of the coast of Paros is constructed like a Matryoshka doll, with a bay inside a bay inside a bay) and further to the “lighthouse” that you can see across the sandy dunes on your right hand side.

lighthouse

But while the bay on the other side of that sandy ridge was (nearly) as beautiful as the one we were coming from, the “lighthouse” turned out to be nothing of the sort but instead some part of a rather ghastly agribusiness facility.

easyhikerdowncast

The walk, however, was still a great deal of fun, not least because it led through a landscape that defied the common clichés of Greece nearly every step of the way: flat, grassy and more than a little melancholy, on a largely overcast and fairly windy afternoon to boot. It nearly succeeded in making us believe that we were somewhere along the Baltic. (Greece is a much more varied country than common prejudice would make you want to believe.)

meonbeach

The Kalypso Hotel just outside of Naoussa – our “home away from home” on Paros – is the perfect base for all the walks described in this post. It is a family-run and very friendly place with guests from Greece and all over Europe, including many people who come back here year after year.

The breakfast buffet features Greek specialties such as fresh goat’s cheese (lovingly produced by the owner Mr. Bafitis’s father) …

food

… the interiors as well as the rooms are tastefully decorated throughout …

13909843491_84b16c9152_z

… and, perhaps best of all, the views from the balcony fill you with the desire to go out and explore this beautiful island.

view from hotel

We thank Mr George Bafitis, owner/manager of Hotel Kalypso (and who also happens to be the President of the Paros Hotel Association) for his warm hospitality.

Follow our discoveries of the island as guests of the Municipality of Paros (under the wings of the town’s Deputy Mayor Mrs Maria Chanioti) as we explore and enjoy the Cyclades.

Get our free updates via email, or follow us on Facebook and on Twitter by watching out for the hashtags #LoveCYCLADES #LovePAROS.

 

Exploring the Cyclades

thumbsGreekIslands

Hiking through History in Ios, Milos and Paros Hiking is a wonderful way of exploring and experiencing your immediate neighbourhood. If you have never wondered what the world looks like beyond that distant little strip of green that you can see from your bedroom window, chances are you will not get much out of excursions to Antarctica and the Amazon either (curiosity not being something you can selectively switch on or off.)

As wonderful as exploring your own backyard is, however, sometimes it is as wonderful to go to a place that you have never seen before and where you don’t really know what to expect. Which is why we are so excited packing our stuff for a ten-day hiking holiday on the Greek islands, exploring the Cyclades, which we hope to start in a few days.

The islands we are going to visit are Ios,

Continue reading Exploring the Cyclades

A Neanderthal Hike

thumb neanderthal

Following in the footsteps of our distant ancestor – and meeting some of his four-legged friends

Why Neanderthal Man? Why is he the star in that collection of human ancestors, more famous than Peking man* and Heidelberg man, never mind the even less snappily named Homo Habilis and Australopithecus?

There may be sound scientific reasons for this, but I suspect that the  onomatopoeic qualities of his name have a lot to do with it.

Neanderthal Man: the combination of lilting rhythm and dark vowels can easily make you believe that you hear the distant echo of heavy footsteps, the swing of a club and the mighty thud of its impact. In fact, the name sounds as though it had been made up to suit its rather squat bearer with his thick eyebrows and muscular physique.

Most of you will know

Continue reading A Neanderthal Hike

The Discreet Charm of Train Stations

thumbs train stations

When airports all look the same, why are train stations so different? If you do a lot of hiking, there are certain things of which you will see a lot. In fact, it is possible to understand most, if not all hikes as a collation of recurring visual leitmotifs: rivers, mountains, valleys, highlighted by the occasional church steeple or castle ruin. Plus some wildlife, if you are lucky, although more likely horses and cows. And train stations.

Train stations are an inevitable part of the mix. The ones you arrive in are the ones you hardly notice, because you are in a hurry to leave them behind, but the ones you, eventually, depart from sometimes stay with you for hours.

It is in these long hours of enforced physical inactivity that you are beginning to think – and to wonder: why is it

Continue reading The Discreet Charm of Train Stations

Between Nice Old Town and the Deep Blue Sea

thumb mont boron

A French Riviera Walk on Mont Boron For people who live in and around Nice, Mont Boron is the most readily accessible piece of “real nature” just in front of their doorstep. It is convenient to reach on foot and/or on public transport, yet sufficiently forest-like to pass for the real thing.

For visitors, Mont Boron is a big chunk of rock, visible from nearly anywhere downtown, particularly if you go a little higher up. It feels temptingly close and yet a little too far away for the kind of visit that you could conveniently squeeze into a day trip itinerary, fascinatingly perched between the town’s suburban outskirts and what passes for “real wilderness” around here. Its lure is quite strong, in one word, and sooner or later, as a repeat visitor, you will want to go.

From up close, however, Mont

Continue reading Between Nice Old Town and the Deep Blue Sea