We are on a small greek island that’s survival is depending on the fat wallets of tourists, but my life is about finding the less traveled path. The citizen snuck out while I still slept and found the local bakery; he has amazing radar for finding the tiny places only the locals go. He found the bakery. I wake up to a warm spinach pie under my nose and bite into Greece before even getting out of bed. Flakes of buttery yellow pastry rain down on the starched sheets…just one bite, oh no….not enough, what an amazing way to start my first morning on Spetses.
At breakfast while devouring bowls of fresh yogurt and local honey from the hotel buffet off we plan our search for the “real” Spetses. That means beaches, beaches and more beaches. We pack spinach pies, odds and eggs snitched from breakfast, lots of water and sunblock we stroll into town to start our day.
While waiting for the one bus that would take us to the beach we chose for the day, I saw a scooter rental. The primary means of transport, buzzing around like swarms of wild bees you hear about. I saw extended families on one scooter, dad driving, mom, grandma and a Niña or Niño stuck somewhere in between them all. I wanted one. In less than an hour we have for 3 days, a bright yellow ATV (all terrain vehicles) “pig” or “gourounes” the local slang for them. Seventy Euros, less than bus fare when you add it up.
After a quick lesson on how to drive it we were let out of the sty, I promptly ran into a wall. Locals yelling at me probably saying something like, “Don’t you know how to drive that thing?” Well, no, I don’t, I hadn’t the slightest idea how to drive my yellow pig. I acted like I knew what I was doing so the citizen, clinging to me like a limpet wouldn’t know. I very much wanted a little pink pill as we putted, yes putted like an old lady sitting on her 3 pillows so she can see over the steering wheel of her Lincoln. I steered up the road to the first beach we chose to visit, Agia Paraskevi.
According to our beach bible downloaded from >www.spetsesdirect.com/recreation/beaches : “Many people’s favorite beach, Ayia Paraskevi has pine trees coming right down the beach, close to the water. The picturesque church of the same name is the church which features in an important scene in John Fowles’ Classic Book The Magus. The beach itself is a key setting throughout the book as is the Botassi villa between Ayia Paraskevi and Ayios Anargyrios (Anargyri) reputedly the real “Bourani”. There are beds and umbrellas, and a recently-added taverna, as well as the only (un-officially) designated nude bathing area on the island. You can get there by road or caique from the Dapia.” Having our yellow pig, we chose the road.
Map handily in the citizen’s pocket, my bag on the steering bar I barely make it through town. Every scooter in Spetses seems to be whizzing past me, honking their horns. Finally the road opens and then goes up and up and curves. The ten kilometers ride from town is filled with breathtaking postcard views from tremendous heights over the Sardonic Gulf and the coves of the Island you cannot see without having a little beast to ride. We pass five beaches until we reach Ayia Paraskevi. I am terrified, it is fantastic, but damn it’s a long way down from the road to that pretty blue water. And this pig doesn’t act like the Honda Odyssey of my past middle-class Americana life.
Ayia Paraskevi was more than beautiful… Laying claim to our umbrella and chaises 3 steps form the clearest, turquoise water I have ever seen (that is saying a lot as I grew up in the Caribbean seas of the Florida Keys and the Bahamas) we stretch out under the hot sun and wonder what the rich people are doing. After staking our claim on our chaises and umbrella with a few people with their bathing suits on, we waded into the same waters that have been enchanting people for centuries. We spent hours going from chaise to the sea and back again with a time out for our picnic. This was a Greece I could learn to love.
The road home was a bit less frightening. We ate fresh fish and mussels over the water as the sun set. Then walked up, and up and up a winding path to see Oedipus in an ancient Greek amphitheatre. This was the entire reason for my trip, to see my Ana perform and surprise her in paradise. As I trudged up this incredibly long, steep path (described as an enjoyable 15 minute stroll…wrong) I wondered why the ancients had to put these things so far up? Waterfront wasn’t good enough?
Next morning we took on a mission of riding the pig around the whole of Spetses. Visit every beach worth beaching. Again packing up our supplies, we took off. The best beach was the most difficult, and involved off-roading. Zogheria Bay (see above link) was well hidden, I had to not very skillfully get the pig over nasty bumps, the pig did not want to go the way I did.
Finally, after going around a beautiful bay dotted with Greeks enjoying Sunday on their boats in a big bay, then up a hill, and down a hill was a lovely tavern and beach. It had the best prices for vino and beer, reward for getting there I suppose.
Now, I had to drive that thing back…
We left Spetses sunburned and knowing we would long for those spinach pies and the most amazing Turkish delight… With my mission complete, seeing Ana act in two plays and spending a wonderful shopping adventure with her. My first trip outside of Portugal accomplished with ease. The friendly security and customs at the airports a very nice surprise. The new and wonderful feeling of coming “home” to uma pequena vila em Portugal by the sea.
“It’s nice to go wandering, but it’s oh so nice, to be home”…. Frank Sinatra